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Here is another collection of studies, old and new. ‘ The Dis- 
integration of Shakespeare’ was a lecture before the British 
Academy, and was reprinted in Aspects of Shakespeare (Claren- 
don Press, 1933). ‘The Unrest in Shakespearean Studies’ was 
contributed to The Nineteenth Century and After, ‘William 
Shakespeare: an Epilogue’ was in its original form a lecture to 
students of the English School at Oxford. It became an article 
in the Review of English Studies^ and has since undergone a 
slight revision. ‘The Integrity of The TempesT also made its 
appearance in that Review, ‘The Occasion of A Midsummer- 
Night's Dream' was written for Dr. Gollancz’s A Mook,of 
Homage to Shakespeare^ ‘The Stage of the Globe’ for A. H. 
Bullen’s Stratford Town Shakespeare^ and ‘The First Illustra- 
tion to Shakespeare’ for The Library (Bibliographical Society). 

‘ Shakespeare at Corpus’, a skit of my Oxford days, was printed 
in The Pelican Record, Gratitude for their hospitality is due to 
the editors and publishers of all these. The essays on ‘William 
Shakeshafte’, ‘The Date of Hamlet’, ‘The Order of the Son- 
nets’, ‘The Youth of the Sonnets’, and ‘The Mortal Moon 
Sonnet’ are recent work, and have not been printed before. 
Once again, in war-time, a salute here to the constant sym- 
pathy and patience of my wife must take the place of a dedi- 

catory page. 

E. K. C, 

October 1943. 



Henry Peacham’s Illustration to ‘Titus Androni- 

LEAT ....... frontispiece 


The Disintegration of Shakespeare . . . i 

The Unrest in Shakespearean Studies . . 22 

William Shakespeare: An Epilogue . . *35 

William Shakeshafte ..... 52 
The First Illustration to ‘Shakespeare' . . 57 

The Occasion of ‘A Midsummer-Night’s Dream’ 61 
The Date of ‘Hamlet’ ..... 68 

The Integrity of ‘The Tempest’ ... 76 
The Stage of the Globe ..... 98 

The Order of the Sonnets . . . .111 

The ‘Youth’ of the Sonnets .... 125 

The ‘Mortal Moon’ Sonnet . . . .130 

Shakespeare at Corpus . . . . .144 



The rock of Shakespeare’s reputation stands four-square to the 
winds of Time. But the waves of criticism beat perpetually 
about its base, and at intervals we must stand back and re-affirm 
our vision of the structural outlines. It is perhaps in itself a 
tribute to the wide appeal of the poet that so much of what is 
written about him is ill-informed and ill-balanced. Small minds 
are caught by, and fail to comprehend, that greatness and that 
variability. Hence the scouring of the Dictionary of National 
Biography for an alternative author, preferably aristocratic, of 
the plays. With these paradoxes I do not propose to concern 
myself. Doubtless they should be refuted, that the people be 
not deceived, but the task must be left to some one with a better 
temper for the patient anatomizing of human follies. This is 
but the spindrift on the face of the rock. 

I propose to consider certain critical tendencies which, in 
their extreme manifestations, offer results hardly less perturb- 
ing than those with which the Baconians and their kin would 
make our flesh creep. This is the argument. Here are thirty- 
six plays handed down as Shakespeare’s. You can put them in 
approximate chronological order, and arrive at a conception of 
the author’s trend of development, both in mental outlook and 
in habits of diction and versification. But a closer analysis often 
reveals the co-existence in one and the same play of features 
belonging to different stages of the development, and some- 
times of features which it is difficult to place in the line of 
development at all. Moreover, an examination of the texts 
shows such eccentricities and dislocations as to raise a doubt 
whether they can have come to us just as Shakespeare left them. 
Tracing these clues, our critics arrive at three results, on which 
varying degrees of stress are laid. Firstly, the extant texts, 
many of them not printed until several years after Shakespeare’s 
death, have often been altered or abbreviated by other hands. 
Secondly, Shakespeare revised his plays, and the extant texts 
sometimes contain fragments of different recensions, in juxta- 
position or overlay. Thirdly, the process of revision by Shake- 
speare was not confined to his own work; he also rehandled the 
work of other men, and left some or much of it standing in the 
texts. And if you ask how far this process of revision went, and 

4821 1 



whether it seriously qualifies the accepted Shakespearean 
authorship of the plays, you do not get reassuring answers. 
One man will tell you frankly that in many plays which you 
thought characteristically Shakespearean — Richard //, Henry F, 
Julius Caesar, for example — Shakespeare’s part was quite 
subordinate. Another will fence with the issue, and explain 
that the conception of individual authorship is not altogether 
applicable to Elizabethan plays. The playing companies kept 
standing texts in their repertories, and one man after another 
brought them up to date, often over a long period of years, as 
theatrical needs required or literary fashions changed, so that 
a drama must really be thought of as an impersonal or com- 
munal affair, like a folk-lyric. 

Well, you cannot brush away these speculations quite so 
easily as you can those of the Baconians. Keen wits are at work; 
well-equipped and painstaking minds have stated their theories 
— their heresies, if you will — and they demand scrutiny. We 
must follow the Logos where it leads. Obviously, one cannot 
take the matter far in an isolated lecture. Each of the impugned 
plays requires its individual examination. This must be based 
upon a patient analysis of the texts available. It must take ac- 
count of what can be gleaned of the literary habits of the time; 
of the possibilities of sophistication latent in the activities of 
stage book-keepers and adapters, of copyists, of censors, of 
compositors and correctors of the press. The disintegrating 
critics give us no less; we owe them no less. I can only hope 
to make some general survey of the ground, and to chart some 
of the avenues of approach. 

The traditional canon of the plays has a five-fold basis. 
Thirty-six plays were ascribed to Shakespeare in the First Folio. 
Thirteen of these had already been printed as his in Quarto. 
Eleven had been ascribed to him by Francis Meres in 1598. 
Five are ascribed to him by other contemporaries.^ This is 
external evidence. There is also such internal evidence as the 
plays themselves bear to the presence . of a single ‘shaping 
spirit of imagination’. It is, of course, primarily this internal 
evidence which the disintegrators, at this and that point, dis- 

? ute. The external evidence they have merely to explain away. 

'ou can always explain away an historical record, with a suffi- 
cient licence of conjecture as to the mala fides of its origin. The 

1 Romeo and Juliet and Richard II or ///, by John Weever; Ham let ^ by 
Gabriel Harvey; Julius Caesar and Winter'* s Tale^ by Ben Jonson. 


earliest whisper against the authenticity of any play in the 
canon comes, I think, from Edward Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft 
adapted Titus Andronicus after the Restoration, and, when he 
printed it in 1687, said that he had been told by ‘some 
anciently conversant with the stage’ that the model was not 
originally Shakespeare’s, ‘ but brought by a private author to 
be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two 
of the principal parts or characters’. We do not know who 
were Ravenscroft’s informants. At least one old actor, William 
Beeston, whose father had been a ‘fellow’ of Shakespeare, and 
who may himself have known Shakespeare in his boyhood, 
survived to 1682. A true report is not, therefore, inconceivable. 
Eighteenth-century scepticism was not slow to seize upon this 
notion of revisional work by Shakespeare, and to give it a 
further extension. You find the substantial Shakespearean 
authorship of Comedy of Errors^ Love's Labour 's Lost, and 
oddly enough Winter's Tale, doubted by Pope (1725), of 
Henry V by Theobald (1734), oi Two Gentlemen of Verona by 
Hanmer (1743), of Richard II by Johnson (1765), of Taming 
of the Shrew by Farmer (1767). It would be idle to raise the 
dust of the resultant controversies, in which the conservative 
side was taken by Edward Capell. The assailants were confi- 
dent and impressionist. Ritson tells us that in Two Gentlemen, 
Love's Labour 's Lost, and Richard II, ‘ Shakespeare’s new work 
is as apparent as the brightest touches of Titian would be on 
the poorest performance of the veriest canvas spoiler that ever 
handled a brush’. The mutterings were largely silenced by 
the authority of Malone, who accepted Ravenscroft’s account 
of Titus Andronicus, worked out the relation of 2 and 5 Henry FI 
to the Contention plays, took Shakespeare for their reviser, sup- 
posed Henry Fill to have undergone revision by a later hand, 
and beyond these only doubted i Henry VI, the admission of 
which to the Folio he explained by Shakespeare’s contribution 
of the Talbot scenes. Pope and the rest had been misled by 
inadequate attention to the chronology of the plays, which 
Malone was himself the first to study in detail, and by a conse- 
quent failure to distinguish between the criteria applicable to 
Shakespeare’s juvenile and to his mature work. Malone’s con- 
clusions determined critical orthodoxy for the best part of a 
century. There were individual dissentients, notably Coleridge, 
who questioned much of Richard HI and the ‘low soliloquy’ 
of the Porter in Macbeth, and declared in his table-talk, ‘ I think 


I could point out to half a line what is really Shakespeare’s in 
Love's Labour 's Lost and some other of the not entirely genuine 
plays’. Coleridge being Coleridge, it is needless to say that he 
never performed this task. Charles Knight (c. 1843) suggested 
that Shakespeare was only a reviser of Timon of Athens \ James 
Spedding and Alfred Tennyson (r. 1850) fixed the second hand 
in Henry VIII as that of Fletcher; and William George Clark 
and William Aldis Wright (1874) elaborated Coleridge’s 
heresy about Macbeth by ascribing substantial interpolations in 
that play to Middleton. 

Modern criticism of the canon, however, mainly owes its 
origin to F. G. Fleay, whose views, after fluttering the dove- 
cotes of the New Shakspere Society, were collected in his 
Shakespeare Manual (1876), thereafter underwent Protean 
transformations, and took final shape in his Life and Work of 
Shakespeare (1886). Fleay had read widely in dramatic litera- 
ture, and had made a close study of the early texts, the diction, 
and particularly the versification, of Shakespeare. He came to 
distrust the received chronology, because it assigned single 
dates to plays which seemed to him to bear stylistic marks of 
more than one period. And he arrived at a theory of constant 
rehandling and of the co-existence in the texts of strata belong- 
ing to different dates. This he applied, at one time or another, 
and with frequent variations in the dates assigned, to thirteen 
of the thirty-six plays: Comedy of Errors , Two Gentlemen^ Love's 
Labour 's Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer-Night's Dream, 
Richard II, Much Ado, Hamlet, Merry Wives, Twelfth Night, 
All 's Well, Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline. As to the occasions 
of such revision he speaks with an uncertain voice. One group 
of plays may have been re-written, either for stage revival or for 
publication. Of another he suggests that fragments left un- 
finished at an early date were completed a decade later. But 
this notion is abandoned in favour of a supposed desire to 
replace work of an early coadjutor by Shakespeare’s own. It is 
an easy step from Shakespeare as a reviser of Shakespeare to 
Shakespeare as a reviser or predecessors. Fleay distributed and 
redistributed Henry VI, Richard III, and Titus Andronicus 
among Shakespeare, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Lodge, and Kyd; 
found much of Lodge and a little of Drayton in Taming ^of the 
Shrew, traces of Peele in Romeo and Juliet, traces of Kyd in 
Hamlet, debris of Dekker and Chettle in Troilus and Cressida. 
He pressed the doctrine of Middleton in Macbeth, but became 


doubtful about it; thought the second hand in Timon Tour- 
neur’s, and dropped him lightly for Wilkins; supposed the 
mask in The Tempest an interpolation by Beaumont. Perhaps 
his most revolutionary hypothesis was upon Julius Caesar, 
which he held to have been abridged and altered by Ben Jon- 
son, as an appropriate return for an equally conjectural contri- 
bution by Shakespeare to a lost version of Sejanus. We approach 
the point where scholarship merges itself in romance. I desire 
to speak with respect and even kindness of Fleay, from whom, 
in common in many others, I derived an early stimulus to these 
studies. He was a man of fertile and ingenious mind. He laid 
his finger upon many of the bibliographical and stylistic features 
of the plays which loom large in current speculations. But he 
had a demon of inaccuracy, which was unfortunate, as he relied 
largely upon statistics. And he betrayed an imperfect sense of 
responsibility, both in advancing destructive notions without 
an adequate support of argument, and in withholding the ex- 
planations and justifications required by his own numerous and 
sometimes disconcerting changes of opinion. His self-confi- 
dence has hypnotized his successors, and many of his impro- 
visations recur in the works of serious students, not to speak 
of those school-books, compiled at starvation wages for com- 
petitive publishers, which do so much in our day for the 
dissemination of critical and historical error. 

The mantle of Mr. Fleay has descended upon Mr. J. M. 
Robertson, who disposes its flying skirts into the decent folds 
of a logical system. His method of approach to his problems 
is uniform. It has three stages, upon each of which I shall have 
a cautionary note later. He begins with impressionist judge- 
ments. Certain passages do not answer to his conception of 
Shakespeare. Here is braggadocio, there an archaic stiffness, 
or flatness, or hackwork, or clumsy stage-craft, or pointless 
humour, or turgidity of thought, or falsity of moral sentiment. 
Or a whole play repels him. One reads like ‘a mosaic of dis- 
parate parts’; in another he gets ‘a strange feeling’ about the 
general style. Then he proceeds to confirm his impressions by 
applying what he calls the ‘inexorable’ tests of treatment, 
style, and metrics; in particular, tests based upon the chrono- 
logical phases of Shakespeare’s blank verse. Finally, he settles 
down to look for ‘clues’ to the possible presence of alien hands; 
clues furnished by the use of words rare in Shakespeare’s 
vocabulary, but traceable in the writings of other men; clues 


derived from characteristic tricks of phrase or tendencies in the 
handling of typical situations. It is all logical enough, given 
certain major premisses, largely disputable. First you decide 
that Shakespeare cannot be present; then you look for the 
intruder. Mr. Robertson has now covered most of his ground, 
and tells us that, although he still has to dispose of Cymbeline 
and The Tempest, we are at a point where the ‘idolater’ — ^that 
is to say the man who believes in Shakespeare’s authorship of 
the plays, more or less as they stand — ‘has probably heard 
what he would term “the worst” ’. The worst, however, 
amounts to an alien invasion. In the front of a rather dim back- 
ground of collaborations and revisions stand the two heroic 
figures, Marlowe and Chapman. I will disregard the ancient 
battle-fields of Henry F/and Titus Andronkus, for the campaign 
has now become more serious. If I understand Mr. Robertson 
aright, Marlowe, more than any other man, is predominantly 
the author of Richard III, Richard II, Henry V, Julius Caesar, 
and paradoxically enough Comedy of Errors, even in the forms 
in which they have reached us. Peele and Greene play minor 
parts, but the Two Gentlemen is substantially Greene’s, and 
work of his remains embedded in Taming of the Shrew and All 's 
Well. I gather that Peele is to be similarly revealed in Cym- 
beline. And both men, together with Kyd, Jonson, and the 
shades of many of Philip Henslowe’s hungry troop of" hack 
writers, Chettle, Dekker, Drayton, Heywood, and Munday, 
are evoked as possible contributors to a series of drafts and 
recasts, which the Marlovian work has undergone. Ultimately, 
of course, the Marlovian plays passed into the hands of Shake- 
speare, and they show traces of revision by him, which how- 
ever was often limited to a little retouching or the insertion of 
particular speeches or scenes, ‘substantially preserved’ the 
original Richard II, and even in Henry F did not amount to 
‘vital rehandling’. Chapman, too, was among the intermediate 
manipulators of the earlier plays. But when Marlowe passes 
out of the chronicle. Chapman becomes a protagonist. His 
unquiet spirit flies like a lambent but smoky flame over all the 
later part of the canon. He may have inserted the mask into 
The Tempest after Shakespeare left it. But in the main his work 
underlies, rather than overlies, Shakespeare’s, in the form of 
drafts or contributions to drafts of plays, sometimes themselves 
mere recasts, which Shakespeare afterwards rewrote as Hamlet, 
Merry Wives, All’s Well, Measure for Measure, Troilus and 


Cressida^ Timon^ and Pericles. To Chapman I will return. The 
complicated nature of Mr. Robertson’s reconstructions and 
their relation to Fleay’s may be illustrated by the case of Julius 
Caesar. Marlowe is conjectured to have written a sequence of 
three plays : a Caesar and Pompey, a Caesar's Tragedy, a Caesar's 
Revenge. These passed to the Admiral’s men at the Rose, who 
revived Caesar and Pompey and Caesar's Tragedy, after some 
revision of the latter by Chapman and Drayton, as their two- 
part Caesar and Pompey of 1 594-5. The first part was now laid 
aside and re-written later by Chapman as his Caesar and Pompey, 
printed in 1631. Marlowe’s original third play, Caesar's Re- 
venge, was perhaps recast by Dekker, Drayton, Middleton, 
Munday, and Webster, in the Caesar's Fall or The Two Shapes, 
which they wrote for the Admiral’s in 1 602. However this may 
be, the Tragedy and the Revenge, now containing the work of 
from three to seven hands, were transferred by the Admiral’s to 
the Chamberlain’s company, and were revised for the latter, 
still in a two-play form, by Shakespeare. Finally, perhaps 
about 1607, the two plays were compressed into the one now 
extant by Ben Jonson, who added some touches of his own in 
a characteristic anti-Caesarian vein. More of the present sub- 
stance is allowed to Shakespeare than in some of the Marlovian 
plays retrieved from the canon by Mr. Robertson; but the 
primitive Marlowe still shows through the overlay, notably in 
the speeches of Antony over the body of Caesar. It is enter- 
taining to find that another recent critic, Mr. William Wells, 
also traces the origin of Julius Caesar to Marlowe. But he 
ascribes the revision, not to Chapman or to Jonson, but to 
Francis Beaumont, and only allows Shakespeare the first fifty- 
seven lines of the play, lines which Mr. Robertson thinks un- 
Shakespearean. Evidently the disintegration of Shakespeare is 
an open career for talent. 

Lxjoking back over the results of Mr. Robertson’s devastat- 
ing offensive, I am tempted to quote my friend A. H. Bullen’s 
comment upon a more modest raid. ‘ If this goes on,’ he said, 
‘ Shakespeare will soon, like his own Lord Timon, 

be left a naked gull. 

Which flashes now a phoenix.’ 

Mr. Robertson will certainly reply that, even if witty, this is not 
fair. He is no despoiler of Shakespeare’s authentic plumage. 
His eliminations touch nothing ‘save inferior or second-rate 
work’; have not ‘impugned one of the great plays as a whole. 


or a really great speech in any’. On the contrary, it is the 
sticklers for the canon who detract from Shakespeare’s great- 
ness. Battling for quantity, they sacrifice quality. ‘The vift 
ordinaire of the Elizabethan drama is for them indistinguishable 
from the vintage of the Master.’ In particular, if they will not 
recognize Marlowe in Richard II or Greene in the Two Gentle- 
men^ they are driven back on the alternative theory of a Shake- 
speare in bondage to a humiliating trick of mimicry, a ‘parrot’ 
Shakespeare, a ‘sedulous ape’. This brings me to the first of 
my cautionary notes upon the successive steps in Mr. Robert- 
son’s critical progress. They are, you remember, three; the 
disquieting impressions, the ‘inexorable’ tests, the ‘clues’ to 
other men. I am sure that Mr. Robertson desires to exalt and 
not to depreciate Shakespeare. And that is precisely where the 
mischief lies. Our heresiarch, in fact, is himself an idolater. 
We have all of us, in the long run, got to form our conception 
of the ‘authentic’ Shakespeare by means of an abstraction from 
the whole of the canon ; there is no other material. Mr. Robert- 
son abstracts through a series of rejections. He is repelled by 
childish work, by imitative work, by repetitive work, by con- 
ventional work, by unclarified work, by clumsy construction, 
by baldness or bombast. He idealizes. He looks for a Shake- 
speare always at the top of his achievement. This seems to me 
quite an arbitrary process. I cannot so read the record. Magic 
of phrase, lyrical impulse, pervasive humour, intuition of 
character, the clash of drama, a questing philosophy, a firm 
hold on the ultimate values of life : you are never far from one 
or other of these at any turn in Shakespeare. But these are not 
the whole warp and woof of the plays. We cannot be blind to 
the moments of artistic oblivion or carelessness, where the 
brain flags, or the insight fails; to the trivial scenes where 
quibble speaks to the boxes or horse-play to the pit; to the 
exasperating scenes where psychological realism makes ugly 
nonsense of a romantic convention; to the perfunctory scenes 
which amount to no more than commonplace Elizabethan 
dramatic carpentry. We cannot leave these out of the account; 
if we do, we may get an ideal, but we lose Shakespeare. Of 
course I can construct apologies. There are inconsistencies of 
narrative and time-sequence. A practical playwright knows 
very well that these attract little attention on the stage, although 
they reveal themselves to the student poring over a printed text 
in his study. There are jests and wit-combats which do not 


seem to have the ghost of a laugh left in them. What is there so 
fleeting, so difficult to transmit from one age to another, as that 
phosphoric iridescence upon the surface of social life which we 
call wit ? But I am not looking for apologies. I come to accept 
Shakespeare, not to praise him. Obviously there are things in 
the plays which any other Elizabethan could just as well, or 
just as badly, have written. They do not perturb me, as they 
perturb Mr. Robertson, to the point of searching for clues to 
another man. Perhaps Mr. Robertson will reply that I have 
not fully met his case; that it is not so much the passages of 
unmannered carpenter’s work which give him pause, as pas- 
sages which have a manner, but a manner which he cannot feel 
to be Shakespeare’s, and does feel, when he analyses it, to be 
that of a Marlowe or of a Chapman. Here we are on more 
difficult ground. But it is part of the character of Shakespeare, 
as I read it in the canon, to be an experimentalist in style. I 
cannot regard the many phases through which his writing went 
in the short span of some twenty years as wholly due to a growth 
in which there was nothing deliberate. I discern abrupt be- 
ginnings and abrupt discontinuances. And he was receptive, 
as well as creative. I can suppose him experimenting in the 
manner of Marlowe, or even of poor Greene. And I can sup- 
pose him, much later, playing with stylistic elements, which 
had struck him in the work of Chapman, and ultimately dis- 
missing them as, on the whole, unprofitable. 

We come now to the ‘inexorable’ tests. These are largely 
metrical, based upon the familiar tables, compiled by Fleay and 
others, which put in statistical form the relative frequencies in 
each play of certain features of Shakespeare’s versification, and 
notably the percentages of rhymes, double endings, and over- 
flowing lines. I do not undervalue these features as elements in 
determining the chronology of the plays. No doubt there was 
a period — not, I think, his earliest period — in which Shake- 
speare made free use of rhyme ; and thereafter even occasional 
rhymes dwindle. Even more important is an increasing ten- 
dency to escape from the tyranny of the ‘ drumming decasylla- 
bon’, and to emphasize the verse paragraph rather than the 
individual line, by the help of such devices as the double ending 
and a varied and subtle distribution of pauses. The tables need 
to be used with great discretion. Fleay ’s methods, in particular, 
were never ‘ inexorable’. His earliest tables were grossly inaccu- 
rate. He published a revised set, obscurely, in the book of 





another man.^ I have spent much time, which might, perhaps, 
have been better employed, in checking some of these. They are 
still inaccurate, but less so. It is disquieting to find that little 
handbooks of facts about Shakespeare, compiled by distinguished 
scholars, still reproduce the unrevised tables as authoritative. 
Other tables, due to Goswin Kbnig, give only ratios and not the 
counts upon which they are based. This does not inspire confi- 
dence. If statistical precision were material, the calculations 
would probably have to be done afresh. I do not think that it is 
material. The tests cannot give an exact chronology; in fact, dif- 
ferent tests do not give the same chronology. They can only indi- 
cate a trend of development, and the trend may be diverted in any 
play by accidents of subject-matter, such as refractory personal 
names which have to be coerced into the metre; by the appro- 
priateness of particular rhythms to scenes of particular temper; 
above all, by Shakespeare’s experimentalism, which certainly 
extends to rhythm. It does not therefore trouble me to find a 
rather high percentage of double endings in such early plays as 
Comedy <?/ Errors and Two Gentlemen of F erona^ and then to find 
the curve dropping through Midsummer-Night' s Dream^ King 
John^ and i Henry IF, and then rising again with 2 Henry IF 
and other plays. But it does trouble Mr. Robertson, and, as he 
is debarred from putting Comedy of Errors and Two Gentlemen 
later in the chronological order, because that would throw out 
the overflow curve, he falls back upon a theory that they are 
mainly the work of other writers with metrical habits different 
from Shakespeare’s. This longing for a smoothly progressive 
curve is only one aspect of a general tendency to seek an unim- 
peded development in Shakespeare’s art. There is a philoso- 
phical predisposition behind. Mr. Robertson dislikes the idea 
of what he calls a ‘ cerebral cataclysm’. To suppose that Shake- 
speare passed suddenly from the merely average and imitative 
merit of Two Gentlemen to the ‘supreme poetic competence’ of 
Midsummer-Night's Dream is contrary to a doctrine which sees 
in ‘artistic growth as in other organic phenomena a process of 
evolution ’ . I do not know whether the latest theories of organic 
evolution have solved that old crux of the emergence of varia- 
tions. But in any case biological analogies do not help us very 
directly in analysing the development of the creative impulse in 
human consciousness. And when Mr. Robertson expresses 

1 C. M. Ingleby, Shakespeare, the Mon and the Book, Part II (1881). 


himself as taken aback by the notion of ‘a literary miracle of 
genius elicited by some sudden supernatural troubling of the 
waters’, I can only reply that he has given an admirable 
description of the way in which genius does in fact often appear 
to effloresce. 

I have not quite done with the percentages. Obviously they 
have no value, unless they are worked upon a sufficient number 
of lines to allow a fair average to establish itself. This is 
common to all statistics. The ratio of blue eyes to black ones 
throughout England has a statistical meaning ; the ratio in your 
house or mine may have a meaning, but it is not statistical. 
Possibly the two or three thousand lines of a play leave room 
for the averaging of double endings. But to work the percen- 
tage of double endings in a single speech or scene leads to 
nothing. Or rather, it should lead to nothing. It does some- 
times lead Mr. Robertson to infer that scenes in a play which 
give very different percentages cannot have been written by the 
same hand, or at least by the same hand at the same date. 
Surely this is an illegitimate inference. If a play has twenty-five 
per cent, of double endings, they are not spread evenly at the 
rate of one double ending in every four lines.^ They come in 
nuggets here; there are considerable spaces without them. 
Largely this is mere accident; they just fall so. But clearly that 
adaptation of rhythm to subject-matter, which may qualify the 
general trend of metric development in a whole play, is even 
more potent in single passages. Here are two examples. The 
first scene of King John is largely a discussion of the paternity 
of the Bastard Faulconbridge. And the rhetoric requires the 
emphatic use of the words ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’, at the 
ends of lines. These words account for about half the double 
endings in the scene, and the percentage, which for the play as 
a whole is 6, goes up in this scene to 1 6. Take again CoriolanuSy 
a play which Mr. Robertson has not yet assailed, or expressed 
an intention of assailing. The double ending percentage is 28. 
But in V. 3 is a passage of twenty-four lines without one double 
ending and another of thirty-five lines with only three. One 
contains the stately interchange of courtesies between Corio- 
lanus and his wife and mother on their entry to Corioli; the 
other the more solemn part of Volumnia’s appeal to her son. 

I I am told that the term ‘double endings’ puzzled some of my hearers. They 
are also called ‘feminine endings’, and are those in which the stressed second 
syllable of the last foot of a line is followed by an additional unstressed syllable . 



Are these, therefore, un-Shakespearean or debris of early 
Shakespearean work? 

My third cautionary note is on the final stage of Mr. Robert- 
son’s process, the quest for alien hands, with the clues of 
vocabulary and phraseology. Here I will be brief, for the land 
is unmapped and the footing treacherous. Are we really able to 
ascribe a distinctive diction to each of Shakespeare’s predeces- 
sors ? Do they not largely, together with the young Shakespeare 
himself, use a common poetic diction, much of it ultimately 
traceable to Spenser and to Sidney? We could tell better, if 
we knew more clearly what each of them wrote and did not 
write. The problem seems to me one which calls for explora- 
tion upon a general and disinterested method, rather than along 
the casual lines of advance opened up by the pursuit of an 
author for this or that suspected or anonymous play. The rela- 
tion of Shakespeare’s maturer diction to Chapman’s is a pro- 
blem of a somewhat different kind. There is not much point 
in a controversy as to which was the greater neologist. They 
both innovate freely, and apparently in much the same manner; 
and, as far as I know, Shakespeare at least was not likely to 
have had any scruple about using neologisms not of his own 
mintage.. If he borrowed his plots, why should he not borrow 
his words? Nobody would suppose that he could not mint 
them fast enough, if he wanted to. It certainly does not move 
me to be told that Chapman must have worked over a scene, 
because it contains words not found elsewhere in Shakespeare, 
but found half a dozen times in Chapman. The oftener Chap- 
man used a word, the more likely it was to stick in Shakespeare’s 
memory. But Chapman is the recurrent deus ex machina of 
Mr. Robertson’s speculations upon half a dozen plays of the 
canon. Wr-iting about Hamlet, he formulates a theory of 

A frequent employment of Chapman by Shakespeare’s company either 
as a draftsman or as an adapter of plays, and as a ‘repairer’ or patcher of 
some; and the corollary that Shakespeare, often revising Chapman’s work, 
which he must frequently have found trying, might very well let pass, as 
appealing to sections of the audience, genre and other work which he for 
his own part would never have thought of penning. 

It all seems to have begun with Timon, and here a more inti- 
mate relation between the poets is revealed. Timon is a play 
‘imperfectly drafted’ by Chapman and ‘imperfectly revised’ 
by Shakespeare. Mr. Robertson, like some others, thinks that 
Chapman was the ‘rival poet’ of the Sonnets and the Holo- 


phernes of Love's Labour 's Lost. But this was merely a 
‘humorous quarrel with his testy rival’, and after all the two 
men ‘had a common patron’, and ‘there is no difficulty in con- 
ceiving that, with or without the patron’s intervention, Shake- 
speare’s company may have bought a play of Chapman’s for 
Shakespeare to adapt’. We are bidden to remember that Chap- 
man was poor and that Shakespeare must have seen that he was 
‘worth helping’. The greater poet had ‘no artistic jealousy’, 
and knew that ‘the quality of mercy is not strained’, and ‘even 
if Chapman had ruffled him somewhat by his pedantic asperi- 
ties, he of all men best knew the human struggle behind the 
“paste-board portico’’, the weakness under the shining armour 
of literary bravado’. Mr. Robertson is an austere rationalist, 
but I think that this little fantasy would have evoked comment 
even in the pages of Shakespeare’s more sentimental bio- 
graphers. However this may be, I find it difficult to fit this 
employment of Chapman by Shakespeare’s company into the 
probabilities of literary history. We know a good deal about 
Chapman, at any rate from about 1596, when he begins to 
appear in Henslowe’s diary. He wrote, or began to write, seven 
plays for the Admiral’s men during the next three years, of 
which two were published, and one was a considerable financial 
success. And he is conspicuous in Henslowe’s motley crew as 
the one who held most aloof from anything in the way of col- 
laboration. The only exception is a play which he undertook, 
but quite possibly never finished, on a plot by Ben Jonson. 
About 1599 he drops out of Henslowe’s record, and the next 
decade is covered by a long series of nine plays, all of which 
were published, for the boy companies. One of these was writ- 
ten in collaboration with Jonson and Marston. Thereafter, so 
far as we know. Chapman abandoned stage-writing, and de- 
voted himself to his translation of Homer and to other non- 
dramatic work. In 1613, however, he did a mask for the 
Princess Elizabeth’s wedding. He lived to 1634, and it is 
conceivable that in Caroline days he touched up some of his 
early plays, or lent a hand to the younger playwright, Shirley. 
The only trace of any external evidence for a connexion of 
Chapman with the Chamberlain’s or King’s men is the ascrip- 
tion to him by the publisher Moseley, in 1654, of Alphonsus 
Emperor of Germany. Hardly any one now believes that he 
wrote Alphonsusy which was produced at the Blackfriars in 
1636, two years after his death, and twenty after Shakespeare’s. 



The Stationers’ Register names the author as John Poole. All 
this is, of course, no proof that Chapman did not write for 
Shakespeare’s company, concurrently with the Admiral’s or 
the boys. A dramatist, who was not himself an actor, was not 
tied to a single paymaster. But Chapman was evidently a suc- 
cessful writer from 1596 onwards. He is one of the seven 
lauded by Webster in 1612. And it does not seem to me likely, 
on a priori grounds, that he would have needed Shakespeare’s 
patronage for an introduction to the company; that no work 
done by him for them would have reached publication ; that his 
temper would have submitted to constant revision by Shake- 
speare; or that, if his work proved unsatisfactory, the company 
would have continued the experiment over half a dozen plays. 

I have slipped from the internal to the external evidence on 
the canon. Mr. Robertson is rather cavalier with the external 
evidence. Of the Folio editors he says: 

We may pardon the players for obstinately specifying as Shakespeare’s 
works — in order to maintain their hold on the copyrights about which 
they are so obviously and so naturally anxious — 0 . collection of plays as to 
which they knew and we know that much of the writing is not Shake- 
speare’s at all. 

I am not concerned to argue for the literal inspiration of the 
Folio. It is quite conceivable that in some cases a substantial 
Shakespearean contribution, short of full authorship, may have 
been held to justify the inclusion of a play. But it was certainly 
not an undiscriminating collection, since it left out, for one 
reason or another, no less than nine plays which had already 
been printed under Shakespeare’s name or initials. And what 
has copyright to do with the matter.'* I do not know what copy- 
right Mr. Robertson thinks that the players claimed in pub- 
lished plays ;^but, so far as our knowledge goes, no kind of 
printing copyright existed, which could be strengthened by 
ascribing a play to a particular author. As for Francis Meres, 
he, we are told, ‘ simply stated the claim of the theatre company, 
which the Folio enforces’. Meres was a schoolmaster and 
divine, with an interest in literature, but not, as far as we know, 
in any relations with the players, such as might lead him to act 
as their catspaw in a commercial fraud. Even if he went to the 
players for his list, there is no reason to suppose that they told 
him anything but the truth. The facts must have been well 
enough known in the London of 1598, and any false claim for 
Shakespeare would have been open to the challenge of Chap- 


man or another. The testimony of Meres, even if it stood 
alone, would be at least as good evidence for Shakespeare’s 
authorship of the early plays of the canon as we have for 
Peele’s authorship of The Arraignment of Paris in a casual 
reference by Nashe, or for Kyd’s authorship of The Spanish 
Tragedy in a casual reference by Heywood, or for Marlowe’s 
authorship of Tamburlaine, of which there is no contemporary 
record at all. Yet take away these, and Mr. Robertson’s whole 
elaborate edifice of conjectural ascriptions falls to the ground. 

I will now leave Mr. Robertson and his Marlowe and Chap- 
man complexes. I turn to the parallel speculations started by 
Professor Pollard and pursued by Mr. Dover Wilson in his 
new edition of the plays. Here the problem of the canon is 
approached from another angle. The emphasis is less upon 
versification and diction than upon critical bibliography; the 
study of printing-house usage in handling copy, of the relation 
which the copy for the plays may have borne to Shakespeare’s 
autograph, of the changes which that copy may have undergone 
before and after it reached his hands. The methods of critical 
bibliography are a notable addition to the equipment of scholar- 
ship. But scepticism may be permitted as to whether they 
really carry the superstructure of theory about the revision of 
the canonical plays, which Mr. Wilson is piling upon them. 
His work is, of course, only beginning. It has now covered 
seven of the comedies, and not one of them is allowed to be 
an integral and untouched product of Shakespeare’s creative 
energy, in the form in which he first conceived and wrought it. 
Inevitably I throw Mr. Wilson’s cautious and modestly ex- 
pressed hypotheses into more categorical statements. Comedy 
of Errors is ‘of Shakespeare’s writing in the main’, but it is a 
revision of an older play, perhaps the Historie of Error given by 
a boy company at court in 1577; and of this parts have been 
retained, including the doggerel, none of which is Shake- 
speare’s. Moreover, the extant text is an abridgement made in 
the playhouse by two distinct scribes. Two Gentlemen is also 
an abridgement, with passages added by the adapter, who con- 
tributed the whole character of Speed. Love's Labour 's Lost 
was based by Shakespeare upon a play by a writer of the 
’eighties. He himself gave it a revision, and may then have 
eliminated bits of the original which he at first let stand. Traces 
of the first Shakespearean version are left, owing to imperfect 
cancellation in the copy. The Folio text shows some further 



playhouse alteration. Much Ado contains two strata of Shake- 
spearean work, and has therefore also been revised. There is 
no obvious indication of a second hand, although an earlier 
play may have served as a source. Here again there are play- 
house alterations in the Folio text. Merry Wives is a transforma- 
tion by Shakespeare, ‘perhaps, with help from others’, of an 
earlier play. The Jealous Comedy^ of which parts remain. There 
may have been an intermediate version. I do not understand 
Mr. Wilson to regard The Jealous Comedy as Shakespeare’s 
own. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare may only have re- 
cast an old play, with a history going back to Whetstone’s 
Promos and Cassandra. But the text, as we have it, has under- 
gone a double adaptation by later hands; firstly an abridge- 
ment, secondly an expansion, accompanied by the re-writing of 
Shakespearean verse-scenes as prose. Finally, The Tempest has 
had a pre-history and a post-history. Substantially, it is a late 
recast by Shakespeare of an earlier play, perhaps his own, and 
at this recast, matter originally played in scenes before the 
wreck has been put into narrative form. Then the recast has 
itself been abridged, mainly by Shakespeare; and into the 
abridgement has been inserted the mask, the authorship of 
which is left undetermined. Mr. Wilson does not, it will be 
seen, extrude Shakespeare from any of the seven comedies in 
as wholesale a fashion as that in which Mr. Robertson extrudes 
him from Richard II or Henry V. But he finds much alloy due 
to earlier versions and much alloy due to later adaptations ; and 
these, together with the habit ascribed to Shakespeare of re- 
vising his own work, produce sufficiently ambiguous results. 

Implicit in it all is the doctrine of continuous copy. The 
foundation of this doctrine has, I think, four corner-stones. 
The first is'a notion of theatrical precaution and economy; pre- 
caution in not having too many copies of a play about, lest one 
should fall into the hands of a rival company; economy, in 
avoiding unnecessary expenditure upon copyist’s charges. The 
second is the actual condition of a particular manuscript which 
has been preserved, that of Sir Thomas More. This has been 
plausibly shown by Dr. Greg to have been originally written 
out in a single hand; then altered in several other hands, partly 
by cancellations and marginal insertions on the original pages, 
and partly by tearing off some of the original pages and substi- 
tuting separate slips; then submitted to a censor and marked by 
him with directions for the modification of disallowed passages; 


and finally, or at an earlier stage, gone through by a stage- 
mdnager, who added some technical notes for the production. 
Thirdly, there is the obvious re-writing, scene for scene, of the 
Contention of Tork and Lancaster as 2 and j Henry VI. And, 
fourthly, there is the courageous attempt of Professor Pollard 
and Mr. Wilson themselves to explain the relation of the ‘bad’ 
to the ‘good’ Quartos of certain Shakespearean plays by a 
theory which entails the progressive revision of lost versions. 
And so we arrive at the notion of the long-lived manuscript in 
the tiring-house wardrobe, periodically taken out for a revival 
and as often worked upon by fresh hands, abridged and ex- 
panded, recast to fit the capabilities of new performers, bright- 
ened with current topical allusions, written up to date to suit 
new tastes in poetic diction. Additional scenes may be inserted. 
If the old pages will no longer hold the new matter, they may 
be mutilated and replaced by partial transcripts. In the end 
hardly a single line may remain as it was in the beginning. Yet, 
in a sense, it is the same play, even as our human bodies, the 
cellular matter of which is continuously renewed, remain our 
bodies from the cradle to the grave. A perpetual form; an 
evanescent ! Who is the author of such a play .•’We cannot 
tell. The soul gets a ‘dusty answer’, when hot on that particular 

Again I will attempt one or two general propositions bearing 
upon the issue. I feel some doubt whether the case of Sir 
Thomas More is altogether typical; whether, that is to say, the 
Master of the Revels would as a rule have been willing to accept 
for reading a play in the state of picturesque confusion which 
characterizes that famous document. Professor Pollard, I 
gather, thinks that he would, and explains it by a reference to 
‘the easy temper of English officialdom at all periods’. Well, 
Dr. Pollard is an English official, and so am I, and that is the 
kind of compliment we bandy between ourselves. Comments 
in a different tone sometimes drift in to us from the outside 
world. I am sure, however, that if the Master of the Revels 
had to tackle many manuscripts like Sir Thomas More, that 
progressive increase in his emoluments, which is a feature in 
the history of the office during the seventeenth century, was 
well justified. And personally, I feel that his instinct would 
have been to call for clean transcripts. Clean transcripts would, 
of course, be fatal to the doctrine of continuous copy in its 
extreme form, and in the preparation of them most of the 


bibliographical evidence, upon which Mr. Wilson relies to 
prove the revision of plays, would disappear. That any sub- 
stantial revision, as distinct perhaps from a mere abridgement, 
would entail a fresh application for the Master’s allowance 
must, I think, be taken for granted. The rule was that his hand 
must be ‘at the latter end of the booke they doe play’; and in 
London, at least, any company seriously departing from the 
allowed book would run a considerable risk.^ 

Whether the manuscript of Sir Thomas More is typical or not, 
Mr. Wilson has, of course, no such direct evidence for any play 
of the canon. He supplies its place by pointing to indications 
of what he calls ‘bibliographical disturbance’ in the early edi- 
tions, departures from typographical uniformity, such as the 
use for printer’s copy of an analogous revised manuscript might 
explain. There are passages written as blank verse, but set up 
by the printer as prose. There are incomplete lines of verse, 
taken by Mr. Wilson as signs of ‘cuts’. There are passages 
which duplicate one another and suggest the accidental survival 
of alternative versions. There are variations of nomenclature 
in speech-headings and stage-directions, which may betray 
composition by different hands or at different dates. It may be 
observed that, while bibliography can constitute the existence 
of these phenomena, and can sometimes contribute to an expla- 
nation of them from a knowledge of printing-house methods, 
it can by no means always give a full explanation. And then the 
bibliographer, like the rest of us, has to fall back upon what he 
can learn or guess of the methods of the tiring-house, or upon 
his own insight into literary psychology. Thus the setting up of 
verse as prose is explained, prettily enough, as due to the 
failure of compositors to appreciate the metrical character of 
insertions written continuously in cramped margins. But if you 
ask why any particular insertion was made, bibliography is 
dumb. Mr. Wilson tends to guess that it was made as part of 
a general revision. I find myself often guessing that it was only 
an after-thought at the time of original writing. Similarly, a 
broken line may be, and I dare say often is, due to a ‘cut’, but 
1 This raises a further question. Did the Master himself keep copies of allowed 
books for purposes of control? Certainly Herbert laid down in 1633 that such 
copies must be furnished to him by the book-keepers, but it is not clear whether 
he was establishing a new or asserting an old practice. A reference to the burn- 
ing of Sir George Buck’s books suggests the latter. But this also is obscure; it is 
possible that these were not books kept by Buck, but licensed by him, and burnt 
at the Fortune in 1621. 


it may also be a mere rhythmical variation and it may often 
indicate a dramatic pause, for reflection or the insertion of stage 
business. And it is not bibliographical knowledge, but a feeling 
for rhythm and dramatic values, that must determine the most 
likely explanation in each case. Mr. Wilson is, of course, just 
as well qualified to apply the literary as the bibliographical 
criteria. But the doctrine of continuous copy seems to have a 
great fascination for him. 

I will draw to a close with some ‘external’ reasons for think- 
ing that the amount of revision in the canon is not likely to be 
very great. The ‘revival’ of old plays was familiar to the 
Elizabethan stage. I first note the technical phrase in a letter of 
1605, which states that the King’s men had ‘revived’ Love's 
Labour's Lost. ‘Revived’ is printed ‘revised’ by a contributor 
to Mr. Wilson’s edition; that is a mere slip, but revival and 
revision are not synonymous. The distinction between a new 
and a revived play has financial implications in Sir Henry 
Herbert’s office notes of 1622-42. In 1628 he secured from 
the King’s men a ‘benefit’ during each summer and winter, 
‘to be taken out of the second daye of a revived play’. In 1 633 
he laid down that ‘ould revived playes’, as well as ‘new’ ones, 
must be brought for allowance, and fixed or confirmed fees of 
for reading a new play and ,^1 for an old one. He has a 
significant entry of the on one occasion, as being for allow- 
ance ‘ to add scenes to an ould play and to give it out for a new 
one’. After the Restoration, a dispute, of which we have not 
the conclusion, arose as to whether the Master’s fee ‘ for super- 
vising reviv’d plaies’ was of ancient custom, and as to ‘how 
long plaies may be laid asyde, ere he shall judge them to be 
reviv’d’. All this is late evidence and complicated by Herbert’s 
bureaucratic tendency to magnify his office and multiply his 
emoluments. But the notions involved were clearly ancient, 
and even at the Rose a measure of revision probably entitled a 
‘revived’ play to rank as ‘new’. When Henslowe marks Long- 
shanks in his diary as n.e. we need not suppose that we have to 
do with anything but a recast of Peele’s Edward I. There was 
money in it. Even if the entrance charges for a new play were 
not higher, novelty had its appeal to the Elizabethan tempera- 
ment. Dekker and Jonson have their laugh at the poets em- 
ployed as ‘play-patchers’ and ‘play-dressers’. I dare say the 
process was often only colourable. ‘New titles warrant not a 
play for new’, says a seventeenth-century prologue. On the 


Other hand, a popular stock play, a ‘get-penny’, might draw 
well enough at a revival, without revision. Revision then, as 
well as revival, is a vera causa on the Elizabethan stage. It is 
more difficult to give a quantitative estimate of its frequency. 
But something can be collected from Henslowe’s dealings with 
the Admiral’s men, and something at a later date from Her- 
bert’s notes. During the six years from 1597 to 1603 the 
Admiral’s men acquired about 100 new plays, paying fees to 
the poets which exclude any probability that we have only to 
do with ‘new titles’. Of these we can trace the actual produc- 
tion of about 50, from the purchase for them of new garments 
and properties ; others may, of course, have been furnished from 
the existing tiring-house stock. As against the 50 new plays, 
we can trace on similar evidence about 23 revivals. These had 
probably been exceptionally successful old plays, since 13 of 
them have come down to us in print, a quite disproportionate 
number, in view of the oblivion which has overtaken most of 
the 300 or so plays named by Henslowe. But most of these 
revivals do not seem to have been accompanied by any substan- 
tial payments to poets for carrying out the work. There are ten 
payments. Three are small sums for ‘altering’ or ‘mending’ 
plays, in one case a new and not a revived one, for the court, 
presumably as a result of the special scrutiny which plays 
selected for court performance underwent from the Revels offi- 
cers. Three others are only for the provision of prologues and 
epilogues, in one case also for the court. There are, therefore, 
during these six years and for these 23 revivals, only four cases 
of substantial revision, carrying substantial fees to the poets.^ 
We have three of the four revised plays, and two of them we 
have both in the revised and the unrevised forms, so that we 
can see exactly what took place. They are Doctor Faustus and 
The Spanish Tragedy \ in each case the revision amounted to 
the insertion of new scenes into an otherwise substantially un- 
altered text. The third play is Old Fortunatus. Here we have 
only the revised text; the original was probably written in two 
parts, and the revision compressed them into one. Henslowe’s 
record, therefore, bears very little testimony to any widespread 
practice of revising plays upon revival. It bears still less to 

1 The normal payment for a new play was £ 6 . The revision of Dr. Faustus 
and Tasso’s Melancholy cost in each case ,^4; that of The Spanish Tragedy £,z 
and an unspecified part of Cio-, that of Old Fortunatus (y), including some 
further alterations for the court. 


any literary recasting of the whole substance of revived plays, 
such as the theories which I have sketched envisage. I do not 
overlook the possible difference in methods between Shake- 
speare’s company and the Admiral’s. Two plays belonging to 
the former, outside the canon, have undergone alteration of 
known character. One is The Malcontent^ the other Mucedorus\ 
in both the revision took the form of inserting scenes, not of 
stylistic rehandling. Jonson, no doubt, re-wrote Every Man in 
his Humour^ before the folio of i6i6, and replaced the work of 
a collaborator by his own in Sejanus, before publication. But 
Jonson’s literary attitude to his ‘Works’ is too personal to be 
taken as representative. 

I come now to Sir Henry Herbert’s notes. Such extracts 
from these as have been preserved record 130 licences for the 
production of plays between 1622 and 1642. Only fifteen 
were old plays, and in only seven is there any record of revision. 
One is a play of Fletcher’s ‘corrected’ by Shirley; one had 
undergone ‘renewing’ and one ‘alterations’; four had had one 
or more scenes added. We cannot be sure that the eighteenth- 
century scholars took all such notices out of Herbert’s office- 
book, while it was available. And we cannot be sure that the 
Elizabethans and Jacobeans were not fonder of re-writing plays 
than the Carolines. But, for what it is worth, Herbert’s evi- 
dence tends to confirm Henslowe’s. 

We ought to be very grateful to Mr. Robertson and Mr. 
Dover Wilson. We had come to think that all the critical ques- 
tions about Shakespeare were disposed of; the biographical 
facts and even a little more than the facts chronicled, the canon 
and the apocrypha fixed, the chronological order determined, 
the text established; that there was not much left to be done 
with Shakespeare, except perhaps to read him. They have 
shown us, that it is not so; and we must now go over the ground 
again, and turn our notional assents, with whatever modifica- 
tions may prove justified, into real assents. We have all the 
spring joy of re-digging a well-tilled garden. 



Every age will inevitably refashion the interpretative criticism 
of Shakespeare to its own mood. But, so far as the bare mar- 
shalling of facts is concerned, it must often have seemed, during 
the long process of the years, as if finality had been reached. 
Perhaps even Heminges and Condell thought that they had 
achieved it, when they painfully exhumed from the tiring-house 
coffers eighteen plays, hitherto unprinted, and furnished autho- 
ritative texts to replace the ‘stolne and surreptitious copies’ — 
not, indeed, so many as their preface suggested — of others. 
Here at last were the works of their beloved fellow, ‘absolute 
in their numbers, as he conceived them’. Perhaps the preface 
might have been longer, if Heminges and Condell had known 
how many questions about the origin and stage history and 
chronology of those works the twentieth-century researcher 
would have liked to put to them. And perhaps it is as well that 
they did not know, since in that event much of the researcher’s 
entrancing occupation would have been gone. They did not 
even furnish a biography. Possibly one was written or planned 
by Thomas Hey wood, although no ‘fellow’ of Shakespeare, 
among those unfinished and lost Lives oj All the Poets, for which 
we would so gladly barter, many times over, his Gunaikeion and 
his Hierarchy oj the Angels, It is to the piety of a later actor, 
Thomas Betterton, that we owe most of the facts put together 
by Nicholas Rowe in the first formal biography of 1709. Pre- 
sumably Rowe also envisaged finality, although we smile when 
he says that ‘tho’ the works of Mr. Shakespear may seem to 
many not to want a comment, yet I fancy some little account of 
the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with 
them’; and Malone pathetically points out how many contem- 
poraries of Shakespeare, still alive in the days of Betterton and 
Rowe, might have been, but were not, questioned. It is likely 
that little was garnered by the antiquary William Oldys, sitting 
there in his room at the Heralds’ Office, with sheaves of Shake- 
spearean notes hung in bags around the walls. These notes 
have vanished. The unreliable George Steevens printed some 
items of gossip, which may have drifted to Oldys through Pope 
at the Earl of Oxford’s table. Sir Sidney Lee says that the 
originals of these are extant in some Adversaria by Oldys ‘now 



in the British Museum’. But I have searched for them there 
in vain. It is ironical that Oldys did not even discover the 
record of the Shakespeare arms, which lay at the Heralds’ 
OfEce all the time. 

Then at the end of the century came Malone himself, a very 
competent scholar for his time, unwearied both in archival 
research and in personal inquiries up and down Warwickshire. 
He opened up the documents at Stratford and Dulwich College 
and the Record Office, trounced the Ireland forgeries, and 
made a big contribution both to the chronological and textual 
history of the plays and to the biography of the playwright. 
We must always remain grateful to Malone. His results, taking 
their latest posthumous form in the Third F ariorum Shakespeare 
of 1821, once more looked like finality, and his authority re- 
mained great during the first half of the nineteenth century. 
Something was added by Collier, while darkening counsel 
with new forgeries, by Joseph Hunter, by George Russell 
French, and much by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps. These in their 
turn led up in the later Victorian days to a vast outburst of 
concurrent activities; the textual work of Clark and Wright, 
the spiritual biography of Edward Dowden, the Quellenfor- 
schung of the Germans, the stimulating but airy speculations 
of F. G. Fleay, the corporate studies of F. J. Furnivall and 
his colleagues of the New Shakspere Society, culminating in 
the great series of Quarto Facsimiles. A new synthesis was re- 
quired, and has been provided by Clark and Wright’s Cam- 
bridge text, by Sir Sidney Lee’s Lije^ gradually developing 
from 1898 to 1925 out of an article for the Dictionary of National 
Biography, by the recently completed Arden edition, and by the 
illustrative learning of Shakespeare' s England. Here is a ripe 
harvest gathered into the barns. 

And even now the questioning spirit of man is not satisfied. 
Industrious students are still searching for fresh information, 
delving into foundations, challenging presuppositions, en- 
deavouring to work out new methods of investigation. Thus 
is a spirit of unrest abroad, a conviction that nowhere yet has 
the last word been said, that there remain undiscovered secrets 
in the plays which a renewed probing of texts and records 
may reveal. This is as it should be. A scholarship which 
merely accepts is bound to become sterile. It is worth while, 
therefore, to make some survey of the position, to indicate 
what lines of development are being pursued, and perhaps 

to speculate as to where the possibilities of advance seem 

I think it is doubtful whether much is to be expected in the 
way of new external facts of biography. Halliwell-Phillipps is 
said to have hoped to the end for a discovery of papers belong- 
ing to Shakespeare, which might have been taken by his grand- 
daughter into the household of the Barnards of Abington and 
dispersed at the break-up of that household. The chances are 
that any such papers have long ago fed the flames. No doubt 
some mouldering garret in some English manor-house might 
still yield up a treasure, but such things lie on the knees of the 
gods, and are hardly to be obtained by prayer, sacrifice, or 
research. The wooden frame of a horn-book has just been 
found in Anne Hathaway’s cottage at Shottery. On it are 
roughly cut the initials W. S., or perhaps W. B. If it is S, it 
is not much like the S of Shakespeare’s script. And although 
Shakespeare married young, he was not quite young enough 
to take his horn-book with him when he went a-wooing to 
Anne Hathaway (if it was Anne Hathaway) at Shottery (if it 
was at Shottery). In any event, the trouvaille is for sentiment, 
rather than for erudition. The most it could tell us is that 
Shakespeare once used a horn-book, and that we could have 
taken for granted. Perhaps there might be something to be 
learnt from a more systematic examination than has yet been 
undertaken of the parochial documents of St. Saviour’s, South- 
wark, and other London churches, or of the registers of the 
ecclesiastical jurisdictions. And one has a haunting feeling 
that the well-preserved Corporation archives of London ought 
to contain some more continuous records of the civic licensing 
of playing companies and playhouses, comparable to those of 
the Mayor’s Court at Norwich, than have yet come to light 
through the repertories and journals and collections of corre- 
spondence. Anything from these sources, no doubt, might be 
expected to bear rather upon the theatrical environment than 
upon the personality of Shakespeare. There are also unex- 
plored recesses of the Record Office, and in particular the 
uncalendared pleadings, depositions, and judgments arising 
out of lawsuits in the High Courts. Here the industrious re- 
searcher, at the expense of many unproductive days and with 
no Ariadne’s clue except a handful of likely names to guide him, 
might hope to come upon something new, since Elizabethan 
actors were always a litigious folk. It was, indeed, from judicial 


records and by some such method that the latest biographical 
contributions of importance were made by Professor Wallace, 
of Nebraska. A group of lawsuits yielded valuable information 
on the nature of Shakespeare’s financial interests in the Globe 
and Blackfriars Theatres, and another disclosed the poet as a 
lodger in a family of Huguenot tire-makers, where he helped 
the course of true love to run smooth for a daughter of the 
household and her father’s apprentice. 

The plays, however, rather than the biography, are the main 
preoccupation of the twentieth-century researcher, who ap- 
proaches them with an open mind and a laudable determination 
not to take for granted the conclusions of his predecessors. It 
is only reasonable to expect that, in any age in which minute 
critical attention is paid to a body of bygone literature, theories 
will emerge which a conservative instinct is tempted promptly 
to brand as heresies. Any such summary formula of dismissal 
runs a risk of proving unjust. Heresy and the reaction against 
heresy and the search for a reconciliation have always been the 
dialectical process by which knowledge has advanced its fron- 
tiers and consolidated its territory. Certainly there are revolu- 
tionary notions abroad about the authenticity and homogeneity 
of the Shakespearean canon, as handed down in the First Folio 
and the independent Quartos. Against its authenticity it is 
claimed that to a large extent the plays, or many of them, are 
not Shakespeare’s handiwork at all; against its homogeneity 
that, in so far as they are Shakespeare’s, they often represent, 
in the form in which we have them, his later recensions of his 
original compositions. The more perturbing scepticism, to the 
conservative instinct, is naturally that which challenges authen- 
ticity. I do not suppose that many students go all the way with 
Mr. Oliphant, who finds Shakespeare’s matter much overlaid 
by Massinger’s in The Tempest and in Cymbeline^ or with Mr. 
Robertson, who substantially transfers Romeo and Juliet.^ 
Richard //, Henry Julius Caesar^ and The Comedy of Errors 
to Christopher Marlowe, The Two Gentlemen of Verona to 
Robert Greene, and Troilus and Cressida^ AlVs Well That Ends 
Well^ and Measure for Measure to George Chapman. But these 
are only extreme examples of a very general hesitation to accept 
as equally Shakespeare’s all the different manners of writing 
verse or prose and all the different degrees of poetic merit which 
the plays of the canon exhibit. 

The sceptics start, as a rule, from subjective judgements of 


Style. And these, although one may sometimes suspect them 
to be based on too exclusive an attention to the best work of 
an unequal writer, are fundamental and hardly to be affected 
by argument. One can only plead for caution, in view of the 
very considerable difficulties which beset the discrimination of 
styles, especially where one hand is supposed to have over- 
written the lines of another. The development of Shakespeare’s 
maturing style, in its most characteristic manifestations, has 
been traced with some success. It is not so easy to establish a 
criterion which will distinguish its less characteristic manifesta- 
tions from the maturing styles of his contemporaries. And it is 
still less easy to disentangle his immature style from that of the 
school of poets which made an environment for his novitiate. 
It is, I think, justifiable to speak of these poets — Marlowe, 
Peele, Greene, Lodge, Nashe, Kyd, and others more dimly 
discerned — as a school. They worked in collaboration and 
interchanged their praises. They have a common bond in 
classical knowledge and the attempt to conquer the popular 
stage for literature. They owe a common debt to Seneca and 
his English court imitators. And they largely share a common 
style, which derives its stores of diction, phrasing, and imagery, 
from the Senecans, from Spenser, and from the Elizabethan 
translators of Latin poets. Marlowe dominates, with a genius 
and a feeling for beauty beyond that of his fellows. Kyd, the 
‘grammarian’, stands a little aloof, but the influence of his 
rhetoric is pervasive. I do not suggest that they all handled the 
common style in exactly the same fashion. No doubt each man 
wore his rue with a difference. And if we had a sufficient body 
of undisputed dramatic work from each, we might determine 
the various ways in which the common elements were combined 
and modified, and get a clear conception of dramatic personali- 
ties, which in its turn would enable us to estimate the affinities 
of the young Shakespeare, and to watch his emancipation from 
the bonds of the school. Unfortunately the available material 
is extremely scanty. The number of plays which there is exter- 
nal evidence for assigning to any one writer only ranges from 
two to seven, and the evidential value of some of these is small, 
because they are only preserved in hopelessly corrupt texts or 
are complicated by an indefinite amount of collaboration. The 
style of non-dramatic work can be compared; the translations 
of Marlowe, the pamphlets of Greene, the ceremonial poems of 
Peele. But these only give limited help in judging the hand- 


ling of dialogued verse. Probably each writer is further repre- 
sented by some of the many anonymous plays of the period, 
although there were other prolific dramatists, such as Thomas 
Watson, whose work is unknown and who may be responsible 
for some of these. It is only through the accidental allusions of 
contemporaries that we can ascribe the anonymous Tambur- 
laine to Marlowe and the anonymous Spanish Tragedy to Kyd. 
Many attempts have been made to pick out other masterless 
plays and to claim them on internal evidence for this or that 
known writer. Parallels of vocabulary, of syntax, of the colloca- 
tion of words, of metaphor and simile, of dramatic motive, are 
carefully collected. Enthusiasm for a discovery sometimes 
tends to outrun caution. Points of similarity are stressed. 
Others, no less important, of difference are often disregarded. 
Then the play so appropriated is made itself to contribute to a 
further induction, designed to cast the net wider and to bring 
in yet other plays or parts of plays. Kyd and Peele have been 
the chief beneficiaries of this reasoning. Obviously it grows 
weaker as it extends its scope. In its earlier stages it is seduc- 
tive, but, like other applications of the unchecked method of 
agreement, far from convincing. Logically it should have 
been preceded by a comprehensive preliminary investigation, 
directed to showing what stylistic features belong to the com- 
mon stock and what may properly be regarded as characteristic 
of an individual. And parallels, even if well established, are 
double-edged weapons. No doubt constant writers tend to 
echo themselves. But so, too, do the members of a school tend 
to echo each other; and in particular, as a school acquires 
disciples, these tend to echo their masters. It is often more a 
matter of subconscious reminiscence than of purposed imita- 
tion. ‘ Half echoes’ was a happy term coined by Rupert Brooke 
for such a literary give and take. Perhaps it is not a paradox to 
say that, the more obvious a parallel is, the less testimony it 
bears to identity of authorship. Little habitual mannerisms of 
phrase, which might readily pass unnoticed, are safer guides 
than reproductions of impressive thoughts or images. Mere 
words pass like coins from hand to hand. And where, as is 
rarely the case, an actual borrowing of one or more complete 
lines seems unmistakable, it surely points to anything rather 
than a single author. It may be deliberate plagiarism, since 
discipleship is not always either discreet or honest. It may be 
the trick of a reporter’s memory, bringing alien matter into a 


Speech which he is trying to reproduce. It may be burlesque. 
Thus in The Spanish Tragedy Kyd writes : 

And if the world like not this tragedy, 

Hard is the hap of old Hieronimo. 

And after the play-scene, Hamlet exclaims: 

For if the King like not the comedy. 

Why then, belike, he likes it not, j)erdy. 

It is simple to treat this, with Mr. Robertson and others, as 
evidence for Kyd’s hand in Hamlet. Shakespeare had smiled, 
as we smile, over the bathos of The Spanish Tragedy, and makes 
the overwrought Hamlet find utterance for his pent-up excite- 
ment, characteristically enough, in a literary parody. The 
manner of Shakespeare when he wrote Hamlet is of course far 
more recognizable than his manner, or that of any other drama- 
tist, a decade before. The analysis of style must go a great 
deal further before it is possible to lay a finger on any passage 
of a play of the early ’nineties and say with confidence, ‘This 
is Marlowe’, or ‘This is Greene’, or ‘This is the young 

There is at present a more hopeful field in the activities of 
the so-called ‘bibliographical’ school of researchers. These are 
not so completely detached from literary considerations as some 
of the exponents of the school, perhaps ironically, profess. But 
at least they approach their problem from the bibliographical 
angle, beginning with a close investigation of the typographical 
features of the old prints and an attempt to deduce from these 
the way in which the plays were composed and the nature of 
the ‘copy’ furnished to the printers. The method has been 
hailed as a revolution through which for the first time ‘ the door 
of Shakespeare’s workshop stands ajar’. A modest qualification 
is necessary. Scholarship has its continuity and leaves little 
room for revolutionaries. Many of the typographical peculiari- 
ties, which are now much under discussion, were noted, if not 
always rightly interpreted, by the versatile Mr. Fleay; and, 
although some editors have erroneously supposed that the First 
Folio represents the final form in which Shakespeare desired his 
plays to stand, the superior authority of many of the Quartos, 
which is a cardinal principle of the bibliographers, has always 
been proclaimed by the soundest students, from Malone to Mr. 
P. A. Daniel and his fellow workers on the Quarto facsimiles. 
But certainly the new school comes to its task with a better 


equipment than its predecessors. It is familiar with the history 
or printing, with the organization of Elizabethan printing- 
houses, and with the operations of the Stationers’ Company and 
the press censors. It has studied the technical processes of 
the printer’s workshop and the psychology of the compositor. 
It is accustomed to think in terms of type and paper, and can 
distinguish between textual errors which may reasonably be 
attributed to the craftsmen and those for which some other 
explanation must be found. 

Its first scientific achievement was the detection of a group 
of Quartos, bearing various dates, but all in fact printed in 
1619, and apparently representing an abortive attempt at a 
collected edition of Shakespearean plays, some years in advance 
of the First Folio. Incidentally, questions of priority between 
the Quartos both of yf Midsummer-Night' s Dream and of The 
Merchant of Venice were finally settled. This was bibliography 
pure and simple. The lead in the enterprise was taken by 
Dr, A. W. Pollard, of the British Museum, although much 
was also done by Dr. W. W. Greg, and the clinching stroke 
was reserved for a transatlantic scholar. It is to Dr. Pollard 
that the school looks as its founder. He is not only one of the 
most accomplished of living bibliographers, but also a critic, 
an acknowledged Chaucerian expert, an editor of Sidney and 
Herrick and much else. Of all men he is the least entitled to 
waive his claim to a literary as well as a bibliographical judge- 
ment. His optimism and accessibility to new ideas have struck 
the temperamental notes for the whole movement. He is even 
an optimist about the honesty of Elizabethan publishers and 
the desire and ability of Elizabethan printers, at any rate in 
their more sober moments, to give a faithful rendering of the 
copy set before them. Naturally, therefore, he has a good 
opinion of the soundness of the extant Shakespearean texts, and 
this he has done much to justify by establishing from the condi- 
tion of surviving dramatic manuscripts the use of author’s copy 
as prompt copy for the actors, thus countering the older notion 
of the constant intervention of playhouse transcribers, and 
giving plausibility to the conclusion that some at least of the 
Quartos may have been set up direct from Shakespeare’s own 
papers. His Shakespeare' s Folios and Quartos and his Shake- 
speare's Fight with the Pirates, both full of reasonableness and 
learning, are fundamental treatises for the modern researcher. 
Optimism perhaps confers the faculty of seeing rather more in 


a dark room than is apparent to the ordinary eye. Dr. Pollard, 
while maintaining the authority of the ‘Good’ Quartos and 
limiting the applicability of Heminges and Condell’s deroga- 
tory epithet ‘surreptitious’ to the half-dozen admittedly corrupt 
texts which he calls the ‘Bad’ Quartos, at least shares the 
responsibility for a highly speculative theory as to the origin of 
the latter. This conceives them to be based upon versions of 
pre-Shakespearean plays, partly revised by Shakespeare, then 
shortened for provincial performance, and finally contaminated 
by additions taken from more fully revised Shakespearean ver- 
sions, which had supplanted them on the London stage. It is 
a highly ingenious conjecture, but it raises considerable diffi- 
culties and entails several assumptions on points of provincial 
theatrical practice about which our ignorance is profound. 

In handling another problem, palaeography has come to the 
aid of bibliography. If learning can ever be sensational, it was 
sensational in the revival by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson 
of the suggestion, tentatively put forward many years ago, that 
certain leaves in the manuscript of Sir Thomas More^ which 
contain a scene of London riot and a long speech of Sir Thomas 
to the rioters, may be written in Shakespeare’s hand, and the 
lines, therefore, presumably of his composition. Sir Edward 
Maunde Thompson’s authority ds a veteran student of penman- 
ship is unrivalled, and the pages in his Shakespeare s Hand- 
writing and in Shakespeare's Hand in Sir Thomas More-, which, 
with the aid of numerous facsimiles, expound his theory, make 
fascinating reading. Here the formation and linking of the 
letters in the fragment, each in its turn, is compared in minute 
detail with those in the half-dozen indubitable specimens of 
Shakespeare’s script which have come down to us. Admittedly 
the basis for an induction is slight. With the exception of the 
words ‘By me’, which preface one of them, the indubitable 
scripts are limited to signatures, and it is the unfortunate habit 
of mankind to frame its signatures somewhat differently from 
its straightforward texts. On these and other grounds Sir 
Edward’s findings have had to face searching criticisms from 
fellow-palaeographers, notably from Dr. S. A. Tannenbaum, 
of New York, which seem to a layman to require more answer 
than they have yet received. The, date of the fragment and the 
literary quality of the lines have also been matter for much 
controversy; and critics remain divided as to whether the com- 
position is likely to be Shakespeare’s. It will not be inconsistent 


with what has been said as to the difficulty of style-discrimina- 
tion, where work not the most characteristic is concerned, if I 
venture to express the personal opinion that it may be, rather 
than must be, his. If Sir Edward’s belief is accepted, some 
rather interesting inferences follow. Shakespeare would appear 
to have written rapidly and with many contractions, to have 
corrected himself more frequently than we should gather from 
what Heminges and Condell say about the absence of ‘blots’ 
from his papers, and to have been very summary in his indica- 
tion of the names of speakers. The passage also shows certain 
abnormalities of spelling, analogies to which have been traced 
in some of the Quartos, and have confirmed the impression that 
Shakespearean manuscripts may underlie these. No doubt, if 
we could be sure that we knew how Shakespeare formed his 
letters and knew what his habits of spelling were, the know- 
ledge would be a valuable instrument for the solution of textual 

The validity of Sir Edward Maunde Thompson’s contention 
is assumed for all practical purposes by Professor Dover Wil- 
son, the textual editor who co-operates with Sir Arthur Quiller- 
Couch in the new Cambridge series of the plays. This edition 
has now reached its tenth volume, and each so far has been full 
of freshness and stimulus, however much one may dissent from 
its concrete conclusions. Here is no hidebound or sterile 
scholarship ; no mere restating of well-worn themes. Professor 
Wilson is the romantic of the bibliographical movement. Re- 
search is for him a delightful and inexhaustible adventure of 
the mind. His acute observation revels in the detection of 
irregular stage-directions, speech-prefixes, and catchwords, in 
the evidence for ‘cuts’ and interpolations to be drawn from 
broken or misdivided lines, and from other disturbances of the 
text. His vivid imagination leaps ahead to the most ingenious 
of explanatory hypotheses. Sometimes, I fear, it plays fantastic 
tricks before high heaven. In the outcome we are furnished 
with elaborate reconstructions of the textual history of play 
after play, often involving the building up of copy for the 
printers from actors’ ‘parts’, often the rehandling by Shake- 
speare of his original work, or the incorporation of pre-Shake- 
spearean or post-Shakespearean matter. Herein Professor 
Wilson, from a different angle, approaches the standpoint of 
Mr. Robertson. No doubt they would generally repudiate each 
other’s specific interpretations. But at least they share the 


dominating conception of a standing stage text, preserved as a 
valuable possession in the tiring-room, transferred, it may be, 
from company to company, remodelled and written up to date, 
in accordance with shifting standards of taste, by dramatist 
after dramatist, but preserving some kind of continuous life 
and bearing to the end some traces of its successive reincarna- 
tions. The manuscript may undergo transcription, if the inter- 
ests of legibility make transcription imperative ; or it may re- 
main as a conglomerate in which the original text shows dimly, 
through a mass of deletions and interlineations and marginal 
insertions and bits of new dialogue written on attached slips of 
paper. It is easy to see how such a conception is derived, on 
the one hand from Dr. Pollard’s doctrine of the use of author’s 
manuscript as stage copy, and on the other from the actual 
condition of the Sir Thomas More text. But it is certainly per- 
turbing to the literary mind; for who can be said to be the 
author of such a play, and how is such a genesis reconcilable 
with the internal evidence which Shakespeare’s plays at least 
seem to carry, for all their offhandedness and inconsequences, 
of a ruling idea or sentiment in each, due to the unifying power 
of a shaping spirit of imagination ? The Hebrew Scriptures, 
and possibly, if Professor Gilbert Murray is right, even the 
Greek epics, may have come into existence through some such 
process of secular accretion. But surely the Elizabethan poets 
had the tradition of conscious artists before them. I do not 
think that either Mr. Robertson or Professor Wilson has ever 
quite fairly faced this problem. Mr. Robertson, at least, seems 
contemptuous of any notion of dramatic art which makes it 
more than the writing of dull or inspired sections of dialogue. 

It is easy to exaggerate the evidence for a prevalent practice 
of revision in the Elizabethan playhouses. Certainly the actors 
cut and interpolated the author’s texts. They put in bits of 
irrelevant spectacle and comic gag for the clowns. There was 
some adaptation as between public and court or other private 
performances. And there was some shortening, for reasons that 
remain rather obscure. Possibly the use of daylight theatres 
entailed shorter representations in the winter than in the sum- 
mer. Occasionally, also, a popular old play was altered to give 
it a new lease of life. But in the clear cases this was a matter of 
putting in a few new scenes rather than of complete stylistic 
revision. Wilmot’s revision of Gismond of Salerne and Jonson’s 
of Every Man in his Humour are exceptions which prove the 


rule, for they may be ascribed, the first with certainty and the 
second with probability, to literary and not theatrical motives. 
When a play was dead, its plot might become the basis for a 
new play. The Taming of the Shrew^ King John^ and King Lear 
had such an origin. They may be none the better for it, but 
they are substantially new plays, and not revisions of old plays. 
Lear at least Shakespeare fashioned to his own dramatic pur- 
poses, as he chose. He turned it from a tragicomedy into a 
tragedy. Beyond this use of old plots there is not much evi- 
dence, other than such as Professor Wilson can get out of 
textual disturbances or Mr. Robertson out of variations in 
style, for Shakespeare as a reviser either of Shakespeare or of 
any one else. Several of the plays exist in longer and shorter 
versions. As a rule it is demonstrable that the longer version 
was the original, and that it was afterwards shortened. Shake- 
speare’s pen flowed freely, and the actors had to reduce him 
within time-limits, at a sacrifice sometimes of dramatic values 
and often of excellent poetry. The doctrine, repeated from 
text-book to text-book, of his apprenticeship spent in patching 
the plays of other men is based partly on Ravenscroft’s late 
seventeenth-century tradition of the ‘master touches’ he gave 
to Titus AndronicuSy partly on Greene’s notorious attack on 
‘Shake-scene’, which does not really require any such explana- 
tion, but mainly on the long-held belief that the second and 
third parts of Henry VI represent a stylistic revision of The 
Contention of York and Lancaster. It is much more likely that 
The Contention is a corrupt and reported version of a shortened 
Henry VL 

This leads up to the work of yet another representative of 
the modern spirit, the penetrating and cautious Dr. Greg. 
Palaeographer as well as bibliographer. Dr. Greg has done 
yeoman’s service to dramatic history by his editions of the 
Dulwich papers and the Malone Society reprints. It was his 
masterly transcript of Sir Thomas More for the Malone series 
which focused attention upon that debatable document. His 
broad grasp of complicated facts and power of remorseless 
analysis are useful correctives to some of the extravagances of 
current theorizing. But Dr. Greg, too, is among the pioneers. 
He has given special attention to the problem of corrupt and 
shortened texts. In an edition of the ‘Bad’ Quarto of The Merry 
Wives of Windsor he came to the conclusion that the copy was 
supplied to the printers by a knavish actor, who had taken the 

34 the unrest in Shakespearean studies 

part of the Host, was able to reproduce his own lines with fair 
accuracy, and had obtained sufficient knowledge of the rest of 
the play to ‘report’ it in a bungled form and with many mutila- 
tions and lapses of memory. In a more recent treatise on Two 
Elizabethan Stage Abridgements Dr. Greg takes the similarly 
garbled print of Greene’s Orlando Furioso as the occasion for a 
luminous survey of the whole theory of reporting as the origin 
of surreptitious texts. Earlier speculations had generally postu- 
lated the use of some primitive system of shorthand, and there 
is evidence for the employment of such a method about 1 605. 
But it is doubtful whether any adequate system was available 
in the sixteenth century, and Dr. Greg has been successful in 
demonstrating that a far from word-perfect and often roughly 
summarized memorization by actors is sufficient to explain 
most of the peculiarities which surreptitious prints exhibit. He 
has been led, he tells us, ‘ to doubt whether any limit can be set 
to the possible perversion which a text may suffer at the hands 
of a reporter’. To him must be credited one of the most solid 
results of the renewed activity in Shakespearean research. And 
with him this survey may fitly end. 



The study here presented is based upon a lecture which I was 
privileged to give before the members of the English School at 
Oxford. A critical eye will probably detect in its closing pas- 
sages an element of biographical fantasy alien to the strict 
canons of scholarship. So be it! Where historical evidence 
fails, we cannot always help, in our old age, dreaming a little 
about Shakespeare. 

My train of thought was started by some remarks of Dr. 
Granville-Barker, in exposition of a thesis that the last thirty 
years of work on Shakespeare, have brought about a notable 
‘transvaluation of values’, as a result of which we must regard 
his plays rather as material for stage-representation than as 
literature to be read by the fireside. ‘The student’s approach 
to Shakespeare’, on this view, ‘will be something like a contem- 
porary approach. He will try to make himself one with the 
audience at the Globe or Blackfriars.’ True, there may be 
‘certain innate qualities’ in the plays which have enabled them 
to survive their age and the circumstances of their production, 
and this also, it is admitted, is worth looking into.^ 

The theatre, says Dr. Granville-Barker, when Shakespeare 
came to it ‘was dominated by its actors’, who had ‘made’ it not 
‘correct’, as an academic dramatist might wish it, but an ‘.ex- 
citing place’ of ‘vigour, unruly passion, and abounding 
vitality’. Here Shakespeare created ‘a new art of acting’, 
aiming at the seemingly spontaneous expression of character 
in action, which is ‘the end of all drama’. If, as perhaps in 
Romeo and Juliet, the characters would not come alive, he could 
fall back upon a convention, a formula. ‘ It is a thing the actor 
understands, andyoa can trust him to do the rest.'^ Dr. Granville- 
Barker returns to this theme in his illuminating study of 
Hamlet . Here stage-presentation becomes frankly a ‘colla- 
boration’ between the dramatist and the actor. 

The actor does not lose himself in the character he plays. On the con- 
trary. He not only presents it under his own aspect, he lends it his own 

1 Preface to A Companion to Shakespeare Studies (1934), signed by H. Gran- 
ville-Barker and G. B. Harrison. 

* Companion, 46, 51, 53. 

® Prefaces to Shakespeare, Third Series (1937), 3, 5. 



emotions too, and he must re-pass the thought of which it is built through 
the sieve of his own mind. He dissects it and then reconstructs it in terms 
of his own personality. 

Literary dramatists, from Elizabethan days onwards, have been 
unwilling to recognize this, and have failed accordingly. They 
would make of the actor a mere mouthpiece. ‘ To provide raw 
material for acting’, asks Dr. Granville-Barker, ‘is there some- 
thing undignified about it.?’ We know Ben Jonson’s answer. 
‘Come leave the loathed stage!’ he growled. I wish I knew 
what Shakespeare’s would have been. 

So far I have been mainly quoting. There is much truth in 
what Dr. Granville-Barker says. But it is difficult for an Oxford 
man, who approaches drama from the angles -of Aristotle and 
Bradley, to accept the definition of it as ‘the expression of 
character in action’, as the whole truth. He has learnt to regard 
tragedy as primarily an emotional reaction to the issues of life, 
and comedy as primarily an intellectual comment on the con- 
duct of life, and the action and speech of a play, not as an end 
in itself, but as only an instrument for the expression of these. 
He may or may not think that the impersonations of living 
mimes intrude more between him and these themes than the 
masked performances of the Greek stage would have done, but 
at any rate he feels that a leisurely contemplation by his fireside 
often illuminates the intention or the dramatist more fully than 
is possible during the swift progress of a play upon the boards. 

It must be added that we are not quite sure what the method 
of acting on the Elizabethan stage was. The question has 
recently been raised by Mr. Alfred Harbage, who distinguishes 
between ‘formal’ and ‘natural’ acting, and believes that Eliza- 
bethan acting was formal, with little of what is called ‘ business’, 
and content to evoke its dramatic illusion by conventional 
movement and gesture, with occasional heightened delivery.^ 
I do not know that we have material for deciding the point, 
since all contemporary criticisms of acting must be relative to 
existing standards. Thomas Heywood, about 1608, bids a 
scholar learn how to speak through the practice of acting so 
that he may ‘ neither buffet his desk like a mad man, nor stand 
in his place like a liveless image, demurely plodding, and with- 
out any smooth and formal motion ’.^ But ‘formal’ is a word 
with many shades of meaning, and we cannot be sure what 

I ‘Elizabethan Acting’ (1939, P.M.L.A, uv. 685). 

* An Apology for Actors (1612), 28-9. 


significance Hey wood attached to it. To use it in Mr. Har- 
bage’s sense would perhaps be inconsistent with Heywood’s 
deprecation of standing like a lifeless image. But in any case, 
Heywood is thinking of academic, not professional, acting. 
One J. Cocke, about 1615, deprecates A Common Player, who 
‘when he doth hold conference upon the stage; and should 
look directly in his fellow’s face; hee turns about his voice into 
the assembly for applause-sake, like a Trumpeter in the fields, 
that shifts places to get an eccho’.^ John Webster, about the 
same time, characterizes An Excellent Player'. ‘Nature is often 
seene in the same scaene with him, but neither on Stilts nor 
Crutches’; and again, ‘What we see him personate, we thinke 
truely done before us.’® Richard Flecknoe describes Burbadge 
as ‘wholly transforming himself into his Part’, and ‘never fall- 
ing in his Part when he had done speaking ; but with his looks 
and gesture, maintaining it still unto the heighth’.® But Fleck- 
noe was writing in 1 664, and may never have seen Burbadge. 
I do not think that these passages do much to bear out Mr. 
Harbage’s contention. Perhaps his strongest bit of evidence 
is in the preface to The Cyprian Conqueror, extant in a mid- 
seventeenth century manuscript, but still unprinted. ^ 

The other parts of action is in y« gesture, w®** must be various, as re- 
quired; as in a sorrowful parte, y® head must hang downe; in a proud, 
y* head must bee lofty; in an amorous, closed eies, hanging downe lookes, 
& crossed armes, in a hastie, fumeing, & scratching y® head, &c. 

This is certainly ‘formal’ enough. I have never seen The 
Cyprian Conqueror, but Mr. Harbage says that there is no 
proof that the author was familiar with the popular stage. Per- 
haps it was a school play. It is likely enough that, even on the 
London stage, the early boy companies were trained to act 
with very conventional gestures. But I have an impression — 
it can be no more — that during Shakespeare’s lifetime the act- 
ing by men was becoming more and more ‘natural’ and realis- 
tic, although, of course, both blank verse and the use of boys 
to take women’s parts must always have imposed some limits 
on the process. Shakespeare himself, in or about 1600, was 
evidently much occupied with problems of histrionic method 
in those scenes with the players in Hamlet, which, while throw- 
ing light on Hamlet’s temperament and furnishing a relief to 
the tenseness of the drama, perhaps do so at rather unnecessary 

1 Elizabethan Stage, iv. 255. ® Ibid., iv. 258. 

® Ibid., IV. 370. * Sloane MS. 3709. 


length. And I think that Hamlet’s criticisms, too familiar to 
quote here, point to the prevalence of a realism sometimes 
rather overdone.^ 

I find another difficulty in the way of making myself one 
with the audience at the Globe or Blackfriars. How much of 
the plays, as Shakespeare wrote them, should I hear.? I fall 
back upon the valuable statistical researches of Mr. Alfred 
Hart, 2 who has calculated, on a better basis than mine in The 
Elizabethan Stage, the total number of verse-lines and prose 
equivalents in each of Shakespeare’s plays. They range from 
the 1,753 lines of The Comedy of Errors to the 3,762 of Hamlet. 
The average length is about 2,750 lines. It would have been 
higher, had not several of the plays first printed in the First 
Folio, notably Macbeth, come to us only in cut versions. In all, 
eleven plays exceed 3,000 lines. Then Mr. Hart extended his 
investigation to other contemporary plays. The critical period 
is 1594-1616. 

Thirty-three known authors contributed 179 plays in all. Jonson 
wrote eleven of these, averaging 3,580 lines a play, Shakespeare thirty- 
two, averaging 2,744 lines. The remaining thirty-one dramatists pro- 
vided 1 36 plays that average 2,430 lines. 

I am not sure that an average is of very great value where the 
range is from below 1,600 lines to over 3,000. It is noteworthy 
that this upper limit is only reached by seven plays besides 
Shakespeare’s and Jonson’s. 

It is in 1 594 that we first get any clear indication of the time 
available for playing during the period of Shakespeare’s activity 
in a letter of 8 October from Lord Chamberlain Hunsdon to 
the Lord Mayor, which undertakes that his company, who 
formerly began to play about 4 p.m., will now begin at two, 
and have done between four and five.® On the face of it this 
only refers to one company and to ‘this winter time’. But it 
probably represents a general compromise, arrived at after a 
long period of controversy, and we have no reason to suppose 
that, apart from inhibitions for plague and the like, it was 
departed from during Shakespeare’s lifetime, so far as the adult 
companies were concerned. Conceivably, however, the time 
allowed may have been a little longer during the lighter even- 

1 Hamlet, ii. ii. 577-92; m. ii. 1-50, 262-4. 

* R.E.S. VIII. (1932), 19, 139, 395; X. (1934), I, reprinted, except the first, 
in Shakespeare and the Homilies (1934). 

* Elizabethan Stage, iv. 316. 


ing hours of full summer. On the other hand, the boys of 
Paul’s only played for two hours about i6oi.^ At any rate, 
when Thomas Platter visited London during September and 
October 1 599, he found plays beginning at 2 p.m.* He does 
not say when they ended. But he does note that the plays he 
saw were followed by dances, and that there were intervals 
during which food and drink were brought round. It does not 
look as if more than two hours, or at most two hours and a half, 
would be available for the main performance. And, in fact, a 
number of passages in prologues and the like speak of two 
hours as the normal time taken by a play. They begin with the 
reference in the Quarto of Romeo and Juliet (i 597) to ‘the two 
hours’ traffic of our stage’, and go on to 1613 at least. Most 
of them are in verse, and perhaps should not be taken too 
literally, since it would be difficult to get ‘ two hours and a half’ 
into a verse line.® But at any rate they cannot be stretched to 
mean ‘three hours’. An exception is the epilogue to Dekker’s 
If it be Not Good, the Devil is in It (2,700 lines), which records 
‘three hours of mirth’. 

In prose, the induction to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Four 
Plays in One (2,345 lines) promises a King ‘that Reigns his 
two hours’. It may be a play for boys. That to Jonson’s 
Bartholomew Fair (4,344 lines) asks ‘two houres and an halfe, 
and somewhat more’. Dekker, in his Raven's Almanack, not a 
play, is ironical on an actor who ‘shall be glad to play three 
houres for two pence to the basest stinkard in London’. Mr. 
Hart, after considering this evidence, thinks that the limit of 
two hours was rather strictly adhered to. I should myself be 
inclined to put it at two hours and a half, which is in fact the 
time ascribed to Shakespeare’s historical plays in Dryden’s 
Essay on Dramatic Poesy (1668). Platter’s evidence suggests 
that this included intervals and sometimes at least a jig, al- 
though the latter may not have been invariable. 

The unwearied Mr. Hart then proceeded to consider how 
fast dramatic blank verse could be given on the stage. He 
found that he could read it, without pauses, at the rate of 22 
lines a minute, which amounts to 2,640 lines in two hours. 

1 Elizabethan Stage, 11. 21. * Ibid., ii. 364. 

^ Romeo and Juliet (1597); Dekker, Whore of Babylon (1605-7); Barry, 
Ram Alley (1607-8); Jonson, Alchemist (1610); Henry Fill (1612-13); Two 
Noble Kinsmen (1613); Tailor, Hog Hath Lost His Pearl (1613). Cf. Hart, 
Shakespeare and the Homilies, 97 sqq. 


Allowing ten minutes for pauses in utterance and ‘business’, 
he reduced this to 2,420 lines, which comes very near his 
average of 2,430 lines. Again one must emphasize the dangers 
of an average to which few individual plays defer. Through the 
kindness of Dr. Granville-Barker and Mr. Lewis Casson, I was 
able to obtain some figures from Mr. Casson’s recent produc- 
tion of King Lear at the Old Vic. Mr. Casson reads continuous 
blank verse faster than Mr. Hart does, at the rate of about 
30 lines a minute. This he would slow down for acting, pauses, 
processions, and general movement to something like 20 lines 
for tragedy and 25 for comedy. On this basis he had expected 
his acting text of 3,07 1 lines to take just about two and a half 
hours in performance. In fact, it took three hours and eleven 
minutes, at an average rate of little over 16 lines a minute. 
Incidentally, this comes very near the rough estimate of a 
thousand lines an hour which I made in the Elizabethan Stage. 
No doubt, however, it is true, as Mr. Casson says, that the 
speech of modern actors is not as ‘tripping’ as that of Eliza- 
bethan ones, and also that the Old Vic is a bad theatre for 
speech. I may add that, on ‘an unassailable authority’ cited by 
Professor Schiicking, the performance, without act-intervals, 
also at the Old Vic, of the full Hamlet oi 3,762 lines, took four 
hours and twenty-two minutes.^ 

What are the inferences ? First, I think, that, in spite of the 
prologues, it is safer to regard two hours and a half than two 
hours as the normal time for a play during 1594-1616; and 
secondly, that the full texts of Shakespeare’s longest plays, as 
we have them, including at least the eleven plays of over 3,000 
lines, were no more likely than Ben Jonson’s to have been 
actually presented at the Globe or Blackfriars. It remains 
arguable, I suppose, that longer performances were given at 
court. I do not think it very likely, but here we have very little 
to go upon. Court entertainments sometimes began at ic p.m., 
and sometimes lasted to i a.m. or even 2 a.m.* But we cannot 
assume that the whole of those long periods were devoted solely 
to continuous plays. Music, dancing, a banquet, have all to be 
thought of. Failing this possible loophole, are we to infer that 
Shakespeare, like Jonson, wrote for publication, and let the 
players, in the meantime, do their worst .? In the case of Jonson 
we are not surprised. He was a scholar, and liked to emulate 

1 Spectator (i 5 Oct. 1937). 

* Elizabethan Stage, i. 161, 162, 225. 


the ancients. He edited his own plays, or some of them, and 
called them his Works, But Shakespeare, obviously, did no- 
thing of the kind. For whom, then, did he write ? For himself? 
It follows, if this is so, that we must to some extent qualify 
Dr. Granville-Barker’s view of the plays as ‘raw material for 
acting’. And perhaps, after all, we may have to resort to our 
firesides when we wish to capture the full significance of their 
tragic or comic intention. 

Shakespeare, we know, was in his early London life an actor, 
a ‘Shake-scene’, and Henry Chettle, wishing to be apologetic, 
describes him as ‘exelent in the qualitie he professes’. Later 
references make it doubtful whether he was ever a great actor. 
John Davies, in i6io, says that he had played ‘Kingly parts’. 
Long after his death, John Aubrey was told that he ‘did act 
exceedingly well’, but James Wright that he ‘was a much 
better Poet than Player’. Nicholas Rowe could only learn that 
‘the Top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet\ 
Another tradition gave him Adam in As You Like It> H s 
name appears in the lists of Principal Comedians or Tragedians 
prefixed to plays by Ben Jonson, acted in 159^, I599> and 

1603, but not in any of six similar lists from 1605 to 161 1 or 
later. 2 That rather suggests that he dropped acting in or about 

1604, was still in some sense a ‘fellow’ of the King’s 

men on 4 May 1605, financial interests in their 

theatres until at least 1612.^ John Ward, who came to Strat- 
ford-on-Avon as vicar in 1662, records that Shakespeare in his 
elder days lived in the town and — presumably from there — 
supplied the stage with two plays every year.^ The actual date 
of his retirement must remain uncertain. He had bought New 
Place in 1597, but apparently his cousin Thomas Greene 
was living there in 1 609 and expected another year’s occupa- 

Hamlet has shown us that Shakespeare took an interest, per- 
haps even a distracting interest, in the problems of acting, but 
as a critic more obviously than as a participant. There is 
sporadic criticism, direct or implied, elsewhere. In Troilus and 
Cressida^ perhaps the next play after Hamlet^ Patroclus, for the 
amusement of Achilles, ‘pageants’ the ‘topless deputation’ of 
Agamemnon. He behaves 

1 William Shakespeare, ii. 188-9, ^ 53 > 265, 278, 289. 

* Ibid., II. 71-5. ® Ibid., II. 67, 73. ^ Ibid., ii. 249. 

® Ibid., II. 95-6. 




Like a strutting player, whose cgnceit 
Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich 
To hear the wooden dialogue and sound 
’Twixt his stretch’d footing and the scaiFoldagc. 

(i. iii. 153-6.) 

Criticism even breaks into the splendour of Cleopatra’s end. 
She will not be taken back to Rome, which becomes London, 
for there 

The quick comedians 
Extemporally will stage us, and present 
Our Alexandrian revels; Antony 
Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see 
Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness, (v. ii. 216,) 

Shakespeare and his audiences had suffered from that ‘ squeak- 
ing Cleopatra’. The criticism is not all contemptuous. In 
Richard //, 

As in a theatre, the eyes of men. 

After a well-grac’d actor leaves the stage. 

Are idly bent on him that enters next. 

Thinking his prattle to be tedious, (v. ii. 23.) 

And it is again the Globe itself, not Rome, which Shakespeare 
has in mind when Cassius says in Julius Caesar^ 

How many ages hence 
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over 
In states unborn and accents yet unknown! (in. i. in.) 

In A Midsummer-Night's Dream (i. ii; iii. i; iv. i) the make- 
shifts and petty jealousies of the tiring-house become the mark 
for the arrows of Shakespeare’s satire. It is a commonplace of 
criticism that his Richard III is essentiallj^ an actor, who can ' 
afford to listen ironically to the vaunt of his gull Buckingham, 
when he claims. 

Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian; 

Speak and look back, and pry on every side, 

Tremble and start at wagging of a straw. 

Intending deep suspicion. Ghasdy looks 
Are at my service, like enforced smiles; 

And both are ready in their offices. 

At any time, to grace my stratagems, (iii. v. 5.) 

In Henry V Shakespeare approaches stage problems from 
another angle, accompanying the acted scenes with the running 
comment of the prologue and choruses, which are in substance 


an elaborate apology for the incapacity of a theatrical represen- 
tation to deal adequately with an heroic theme. 

But pardon, gentles all, 

The flat unraised spirits that hath dar’d 
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth 
So great an object. Can this cockpit hold 
The vasty Helds of France? Or may we cram 
Within this wooden O the very casques 
That did aflFright the air at Agincourt? (Prol. 8.) 

The audience are bidden to 

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts. (Ibid., 23.) 
The players are dealing with things, 

Which cannot in their huge and proper life 
Be here presented, (v.. Chorus, 5.) 

So far I have been mainly considering Shakespeare's direct 
comments on the stage of his own day. But there is more in it. 
What was the reaction on Shakespeare’s own mind of all this 
tinsel make-believe, in which he inevitably moved.? Hamlet, 
considering ‘the purpose of playing’, tells us that its ‘end, both 
at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror 
up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own 
image, and the very age and body of the time his form and 
pressure’ (iii. ii. 23). But, as we read the plays, does it not 
sometimes seem as if the mirror were reversed, and that, in 
Shakespeare’s imagination, nature, that is to say, life itself, 
were holding it up to the stage? 

Dr. Caroline Spurgeon in a recent book has dealt at great 
length with Shakespeare’s imagery. She dwells, in particular, 
on the extent to which it is drawn from the features of life, as 
it may well have been lived in such a country town as Stratford- 
on-Avon in Warwickshire — from gardens and orchards, from 
aspects of the weather, from the seasons, from the flight of 
birds, from horses, deer, falcons, even from the snail ; above all 
from rivers, in calm and still more in flood, which Dr. Spurgeon 
thinks inspired no less than fifty-nine images. The Avon, she 
believes, was an enduring memory. The analysis is interesting, 
and will not be irrelevant to a later phase of my argument. But of 
theatrical images. Dr. Spurgeon makes little. There are a small 
number, she says, and notes two in Romeo and 'Juliet and three 
in Hamlet?- But surely the plays are pervaded by theatrical 
1 Shakespeare’s Imagery (1935), 45, 367, 370. 


imagery. Life itself is presented in terms of a drama. We 
have all, I suppose, been brought up on the famous passage in 
As You Like It (ii. vii. 136-66). The banished Duke begins it: 

Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy. 

This wide and universal theatre 

Presents more woeful pageants than the scene 

Wherein we play in. 

The melancholy Jaques takes up the theme: 

All the world’s a stage, 

And all the men and women merely players. 

They have their exits and their entrances, 

And one man in his time plays many parts, 

His acts being seven ages. 

And he elaborates it for twenty-three lines more. It is not 
particularly appropriate to the action of the play itself, in which 
both the Duke and Jaques are spectators rather than partici- 
pants. But it is a window into Shakespeare’s mind, when he 
wrote it, not long before Hamlet. And even in this explicit 
form it has several echoes elsewhere. The melancholy Antonio 
in The Merchant of Venice says, 

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; 

A stage where every man must play his part, 

And mine a sad one. (i. i. 77.) 

Macbeth, faced with his ruin, comments. 

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more. (v. v. 24.) 

We recall the ‘strutting player’ of Troilus and Cressida. Lear, 
in his madness, declares. 

When we are born, we cry that we are come 
To this great stage of fools, (iv. vi. 186.) 

These are direct appreciations of life. But the same imagery 
is to be found, leaping almost unconsciously from Shakespeare’s 
lips, in play after play, especially in those that deal with the 
changing fortunes of kings and heroes. In 2 Henry VI Richard 
says of the enemies who plot his death. 

But mine is made the prologue to their play; 

For thousands more, that yet suspect no peril, 

Will not conclude their plotted tragedy, (in. i. 151.) 

In 5 Henry VI Warwick comments on a battle. 


Why stand we like soft-hearted women here, 

Wailing our losses, whiles the foe doth rage; 

And look upon, as if the tragedy 

Were played in jest by counterfeiting actors? (ii. iii. 25.) 

And at the end Henry, submitting to Richard, asks. 

What scene of death hath Roscius now to act? (v. vi. 10.) 
In Richard III the Duchess asks the distraught Elizabeth, 
What means this scene of rude impatience? 

And she replies, 

To make an act of tragic violence, (ii. ii. 38.) 

Later she is described as 

A queen in jest, only to fill the scene, (iv. iv. 91.) 

Richard the Second moralizes on ‘ the antic ' Death, who sits 
within the hollow crown of a king, 

Allowing him a breath, a little scene, 

To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks, (iii. ii. 164.) 

And after his fall he summarizes his own meditations : 

Thus play I in one person many people. 

And none contented. Sometimes I am king; 

Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar, 

And so I am. (v. v. 31.) 

In King John the Bastard points to the ‘scroyles of Angiers', 
who flout the kings. 

And stand securely on their battlements 

As in a theatre, whence they gape and point 

At your industrious scenes and acts of death, (ii. i. 374 -) 

In 2 Henry IF Northumberland cries. 

Let order die ! 

And let this world no longer be a stage 
To feed contention in a ling’ring act; 

But let one spirit of the first-born Cain 
Reign in all bosoms, that, each heart being set 
On bloody courses, the rude scene may end. 

And darkness be the burier of the dead. (i. i. 154.) 

Henry, on his death-bed, recalls his struggles to keep his king- 
dom in peace : 

For all my reign hath been but as a scene 
Acting that argument, (iv. v. 198.) 


In Henry V the Archbishop of Canterbury recalls the memory 
of the Black Prince, 

Who on the French ground play’d a tragedy, (i. ii. 106.) 

So, too, it is in the tragedies. In Titus Andronicus^ after the 
murder of Bassianus, Tamora shows a fatal writ, 

The complot of this timeless tragedy, (ii. iii. 265.) 

The same language runs through Hamlet itself, quite apart 
from the direct comments on acting. At the beginning signs 
in heaven and earth are ‘prologue to the omen coming on’ 
(i. i. 123). Hamlet’s dress and behaviour are ‘actions that a 
man might play’ (i. ii. 84). Claudius is ‘a vice of Kings’ (iii. 
iv. 98). In her trepidation after the death of Polonius, the 
Queen says. 

Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss, (iv. v. 18.) 
Hamlet describes his narrow escape from death at sea: 

Ere I could make a prologue to my brains, 

They had begun the play. (v. ii. 30.) 

Almost his last words are addressed to those. 

That are but mutes or audience to this act. (v. ii. 346.) 

Macbeth, learning the partial fulfilment of the witches’ pro- 
phecy, through the death of Glamis and the fall of Cawdor, says. 

Two truths are told, 

As happy prologues to the swelling act 
Of the imperial theme, (i. iii. 127.) 

In the dark morning after the murder of Duncan, a bystander 

Thou seest the heavens, as troubled with man’s act. 
Threatens his bloody stage, (ii. iv. 5.) 

In Othello the dead bodies of the Moor and Desdemona are 
‘the tragic loading of this bed’ (v. ii. 363). Of Coriolanus, 
fighting as a youth with Tarquih, it is said. 

When he might act the woman in the scene. 

He proved best man i’ the field, (ii. ii. 1 00.) 

After his submission to his mother, he reflects, 

Behold the heavens do ope, 

The gods look down, and this unnatural scene 
They laugh at. (v. iii. 183.) 

Similar language is in the comedies and romances too, if 


more rarely. Rosalind, in As You Like Ity intervening in the 
love affairs of Phoebe and Silvius, says, 

I’ll prove a busy actor in their play. ^III. iv. 62.) 

The Duke in Measure for Measure^ declares, 

I love the people. 

But do not like to stage me to their eyes. (i. i. 68.) 
Cymbeline appeals to Imogen : 

How now, my flesh, my child ! 

What, mak’st thou me a dullard in this act? 

Wilt thou not speak to me? (v. v. 264.) 

In The Winter* s Tale Hermione declares that her past life 

Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true. 

As I am now unhappy, which is more 
Than history can pattern, though devis’d 
And play’d to take spectators, (iii. ii. 35.) 

And of the recovery of Perdita it is said. 

The dignity of this act was worth the audience of kings and princes^ 
for by such was it acted, (v. ii. 86-8.) 

These are all examples, by no means exhaustive, of definite 
theatrical imagery. But even where that is not present, stage 
terms seem in a subtle way to have affected Shakespeare’s dic- 
tion. What his characters have to say and do is their ‘part’. 
They are ‘prompted’ to speak or intervene. No doubt the 
general senses of both words are historically prior to their 
technical ones, A ‘part’ is a ‘share’. To ‘prompt’ is to ‘sug- 
gest’. But that Shakespeare uses them, as a man of the theatre 
would use them, is often probable and sometimes certain. 
Coriolanus says. 

Like a dull actor now, 

I have forgot my part, and I am out. (v. iii. 40.) 

Or he says, 

You have put me now to such a part which never 
I shall discharge to the life. 

And Cominius answers, 

Come, come, we’ll prompt you. (iii. ii. 105.) 

Othello says, 

Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it 
Without a prompter, (i. ii. 83.) 

‘Cue’, a purely technical stage term for ‘signal’, occurs a dozen 


times in the plays. Particularly interesting is the constant use 
of the verb ‘play’ to indicate ‘behave like’. This, indeed, did 
not begin with Shakespeare. Chaucer ^eaks of ‘playing 
tyrant’. We have preserved the sense in a few cases. We play 
truant, or the man, or the knave, or the rogue, or the fool, or 
the devil, or ‘old Harry’, which is not Shakespearean, but first 
emerges in the eighteenth century. But Shakespeare’s charac- 
ters also play the dog, the cur, the spaniel, the sheep, the 
spider, the servant, the porter, the cook, the scribe, the good 
husband, the woman, the noble housewife, the Amazon, the' 
wanton, the strumpet, the villain, the ruffian, the thief, the 
cheater, the traitor, the eaves-dropper, the saucy cuttle (what- 
ever that may be), the runaway, the flouting Jack, the honest 
Trojan, the alchemist, the orator, the judge, the pious innocent, 
the penitent, the executioner, the recanter, the host, the um- 
pire, the God. There is no end to it. 

That Shakespeare’s mind was permeated by the atmosphere 
of the stage, in which he lived and moved and had his being, 
seems to me indisputable. But did he realize it, and, if so, how 
did he react to it ? There we are inevitably much in the dark. 
Did he come to feel some discontent with the limits imposed by 
theatrical conditions upon the creative imagination.? Can we 
so explain the puzzling problem of the extreme and apparently 
unactable length of many of his plays, if no loophole can be 
found in the evidence as to the time available for performance ? 
Did he write them for himself, and remain content to let the 
actors mangle them as they would ? He never published them, 
but did he ever dream of publishing them .? Tradition does not 
help us here. The reporters were interested in the playwright 
and what he has left us, not in his private ambitions and re- 
grets, We turn to the sonnets, but that is largely interpreting 
the obscure by the obscurer still. Did he take refuge from the 
artificial life, to which he seemed bound, in the casual amours of 
which some of them seem to tell, or in that friendship which 
apparently failed him in the end ? The repord, if it is a record, 
is too blurred to be legible now. The earlier sonnets have occa- 
sionally something of the stage imagery in them, although not 
very much. 

When I consider every thing that grows 

Holds in perfection but a litde moment. 

That this huge stage presented! nought but shows 

Whereon the stars in secret influence comment, (xv.) 


And again : 

As an unperfect actor on the stage, 

Who with his fear is put besides his part, 

Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage. 

Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart. 

So I, for fear of trust, forget to say 

The perfect ceremony of love’s rite, (xxiii.) 

And they are largely concerned with something Shakespeare 
does not readily accept in his own life. 

Let those, who are in favour with their stars. 

Of public honour and proud titles boast. 

Whilst I, whom Fortune of such triumph bars, 

Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most, (xxv.) 

He is ‘in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes’ (xxix) and 
thinks himself in some way under a cloud. 

I may not ever more acknowledge thee, 

Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame, (xxxvi.) 

He has been ‘made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite’, but, 
through living by a part of his friend’s glory, is no longer 
‘lame, poor, nor despised’ (xxxvii). The same image recurs in 
another sonnet. 

Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt, (lxxxix.) 
Many inept things have been written about the Sonnets^ but I 
think that the prize for ineptitude must go to the gentleman 
who inferred from these passages that Shakespeare was lame. 

A similar note is traceable in some of the later sonnets, 
written three or more years after the first meeting with the 
friend. The poet has made himself ‘a motley to the view’, 
which rather suggests the stage fool, and ‘vulgar scandal’ has 
stamped an impression on his brow. But the most significant 
sonnet is surely cxi, which begins: 

O for my sake do you with Fortune chide. 

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds. 

That did not better for my life provide 

Than public means which public manners breeds. 

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand. 

And almost thence my nature is subdued 
To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand. 

Can the brand be anything else than an allusion to the status 
of an actor, about which, in Elizabethan eyes, the old tradition 
of the infamous histrio of the early Fathers still clung } And the 



dyer’s hand, stained with his dyes — does not that reflect a con- 
sciousness in Shakespeare himself that his imagination was so 
hopelessly imbued with the colour given to it by his profession, 
that he could only see things as they were reflected in the mirror 
of the stage? 

I cannot look on life 
Alone and plainly. 

They are not his own words, but they will serve. This sonnet 
comes later in the series than that (cvii) on the eclipse of the 
mortal moon, which has been much discussed, but which I 
believe to have been written in 1 599 or early in 1 600, shortly 
after the fear of a Spanish invasion, which led to rumours that 
Queen Elizabeth was dead. ‘Mortua sed non sepulta’, said 
the indomitable old lady. This other may therefore date from 
just about the time when Shakespeare was writing Hamlet, 
which shows his preoccupation with the stage at its height, to 
an extent which perhaps rather embarrasses the movement of 
the play. And after Hamlet came a group of plays which, to 
some readers at least, show Shakespeare in a rather uncomfort- 
able mood: the bitter comedies of Alls' Well and Measure for 
Measure, and Troilus and Cressida, the comedy, if you will, but 
rather, as I think, the tragedy, of disillusionment with the world’s 
ancient ideals of heroism and romance. 

And, a little later, we find Shakespeare ceasing to appear as 
a Principal Tragedian or Comedian in play-prints. Was he 
glad to be no longer one of those whom a Dame Quickly could 
call ‘harlotry players’ ?‘ Was he hoping to purify his imagina- 
tion from its taint? Ultimately — we do not know quite when 
— he retired to Stratford. Here, among the young mulberries 
he had planted, he could write his plays, send them, as Parson 
Ward tells us, to the stage at the rate of two a year, and never 
trouble about what happened to them afterwards. Most of the 
longest plays are later than Hamlet. They include Troilus and 
Cressida, Othello, hear, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and 
Cymbeline. But several of the histories, which came earlier, are 
also long. The later tragedies are more as Aristotle would have 
them, more concerned with the emotions evoked by the funda- 
mental issues of life and less with the interpretation of character 
in action, than Hamlet. If Shakespeare ever dreamt of print- 
ing his Works, like Ben Jonson, it came to nothing. He never 
quite purged his bosom of the perilous stuff that had troubled 
1 1 Hen. IV, n. iv. 437. 


him. The stage imagery is still traceable in the later plays, 
although not, I think, quite so frequent. But at least he could 
sweeten his imagination again with the scents and sounds of 
rural life, watching the movements of the clouds and the 
changing moods of his native Avon. Dr. Spurgeon aptly notes 
his preoccupation in Cymbeline with ‘the background of trees, 
the fragrance of flowers and the presence of birds’, and in 
particular the culmination of the play in the reconciliation of 
Posthumus and Imogen, when he murmurs, 

Hang there like fruit, my soul, 

Till the tree die. (v. v. 263.) 

Stratford was real. Here a tired poet might rest his eyes in 
Perdita’s garden, gathering, if not the daffodils and violets dim 
of youth, at least such flowers of middle summer, as are given 
to men of middle age : 

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram; 

The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun 
And with him rises weeping. {JV»T. iv. iv. 104.) 

And returning to New Place, Shakespeare sent John Fletcher 
a scrap to be put into The Two Noble Kinsmen : 

O Queen Emilia, 

F resher than May, sweeter 

Than her gold buttons on the boughs, or all 

Th’ enamelled knacks o’ th’ mead or garden, yea. 

We challenge too the bank of any nymph, 

That makes the stream seem flowers, (iii. i. 4.) 

With these lovely lines of the recovered sanity of life I will 
end my speculation. 



In my Elizabethan Stage of 1923 (i. 280) I quoted a passage 
from a will executed on 3 August 1581 by Alexander Houghton 
of Lea, Lancashire, in which, after making a legacy of his stock 
of play clothes to his brother Thomas, or if he should not wish 
to keep players, then to Sir Thomas Heskethe, he added a 
request to Sir Thomas to be friendly to Foke Gyllome and 
William Shakshafte, then dwelling with the testator, and either 
to take them into his service or else to help them to a good 
master. And I added the comment, ‘Was then William Shak- 
shafte a player in 1581 The will was proved on 12 Septem- 
ber 1581, and a text of it was printed by G. J. Piccope in the 
second part of his Lancashire and Cheshire Wills (i860, 
Chetham Soc., li. 237). More recently it has been discussed 
by the late Oliver Baker (1937, In Shakespeare' s Warwickshire 
and the Unknown Tears^ 297 sqq.), who gave a photographic 
facsimile of part of the original, preserved in the Ecclesiastical 
Court at Chester. Unfortunately it is a very bad one, since it 
has been so taken as to cut off the opening words of each line. 
With its help, however, it is possible to make some minor 
corrections in Piccope’s version, which is not quite accurate, 
and in part a summary, rather than a literal transcript. The 
following is as near as I can get in war-time to a correct version 
of the most important passage. Abbreviations in the facsimile 
are italicized. Brynescoules may be Brinscall, Lancashire. 

Item yt ys my mynd and wyll that Thomas Houghton of Brynescoules 
my brother shall haue all my Instrumentw belonginge to mewsyckw and 
all man#r of playe clothes yf he be mynded to kcppe and doe keppe 
playeres. And yf he wyll not keppe and manteyne playeres then yt ys my 
wyll that S/V Thomas Heskethe fcnyghte shall haue the same Instruments 
and playe clothes. And I most hertelye requyre the said Sir Thomas to be 
fFrendlye unto ffoke Gyllome and WWMam Shakeshafte nowe dwellynge 
with me and eyther to take theym vnto his Servyce or els to helpe theym 
to some good master as my tryste ys he wyll. 

The linking with Sir Thomas Heskethe seems to make it at least 
highly probable that Foke Gyllome and William Shakeshafte 
were players. The will goes on, firstly to provide for the pay- 
ment of a year’s wages to every servant of the testator at the 
time of his death, and secondly to recite a provision in an en- 
tail, dated on 20 July 1580, of his landed property upon his 

5 ^ 


brother Thomas, which reserved an annual rent-charge of 
£16. I3^. 4«/. to be spent in the provision of annuities for some 
of these servants, who are now named. There are eleven of 
them. One gets £ 2 ' 8</., four ;^i, two 1 3/. 4^/., and four £i. 

Among these last are William Shakeshafte and Fowke Gyllom, 
and also a Thomas Gyllome. There is a further direction that, 
on the death of any annuitant, his share is to be divided among 
those still living, so that the last survivor shall get for his life 
the whole amount of the rent-charge. A generous, if meticulous 
old gentleman ! His wife Elizabeth is to be executrix, or, fail- 
ing her, his brother-in-law Thomas Heskethe, of Gray’s Inn, 
executor. His brother-in-law, Bartholomew Heskethe, is to be 
a supervisor. He is also a witness to the will. 

I do not know why I did not refer again in my William 
Shakespeare (1930) to this William Shakeshafte, which, rather 
than Shakshafte, is the normal spelling of the will, although 
I noted the numerous variations in the spelling of the name 
Shakespeare, the not infrequent appearance of Shakeshaft, an 
example of a Shakeschaft and a Shakestaff holding land to- 
gether in Shropshire, and in particular the fact that the poet’s 
grandfather, Richard, seems to be both ShakstaflF and Shake- 
schafte, as well as Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, and 
Shaxpere, in the Snitterfield manor records {W.S., ii. 27, 372). 
I do not think that his father John ever appears as Shakeshafte, 
but it is at least conceivable that William might have adopted 
the variant as a player. It does not, of course, recur in his 
London career. Baker notes the existence of a Gillom family at 
Bidford and at Henley-in-Arden, where ancestors of my own 
once lived — both in the neighbourhood of Stratford; and also 
the fact that the name Foke or Fulke was more common in 
Warwickshire than elsewhere in England. This is perhaps due 
to the three successive Fulke Grevilles of Beauchamp Court. 
The last of these, who became Lord Brooke, is said by David 
Lloyd in 1665 to have desired ‘to be known to posterity under 
no other notions than of Shakespear s and Ben Johnson's Master, 
Chancellor Egerton's Patron, Bishop Overal's Lord, and Sir 
Philip Sidney's friend’ (W.S., ii. 250). No explanation of this 
allusion to Shakespeare has ever been found. Greville’s official 
posts would not obviously bring him into contact with players. 
It is conceivable that a company may have been maintained at 
Beauchamp Court, but there is no evidence of it. 

I now return, however, to the William Shakeshafte of 1581, 


because I have come upon a good deal about the Houghton and 
Hesketh families, which escaped my observation in 1923. It is 
largely taken from the edition by F. R. Raines of The Derby 
Household Books (1853, Chetham Soc., xxxi). Here is a record 
of the weekly expenses of Henry Stanley, fourth Earl of Derby, 
at his houses of Knowsley, Lathom, and New Park in Lanca- 
shire, kept by his steward William Farington, and accompanied 
by notes of the coming and going of the Stanleys and their 
visitors during each week. Both Houghtons and Heskeths 
often make their appearance among these. 

Alexander Houghton was of course dead before the record 
begins. But in June 1587 came Mr. Auditor Houghton, whom 
Raines takes to be Thomas Houghton of Houghton Towers. 
But he was also of Lea, which he had acquired under the 
entail of 1580. He came again, with his son Richard, then a 
lad of seventeen, in October, and again, apparently to join his 
wife Anne, in December, and yet again in January 1589. On 
2 1 November 1589 he was slain in a fray at Lea with Thomas 
Langton, Baron Newton, of Walton Hall. Some details of this 
affair are given by Baker from historians of Lancashire. There 
is no mention of Brynescoules, but that of Lea clearly identifies 
this Thomas Houghton with the brother Thomas of Alexan- 
der’s will. The Earl of Derby seems to have been much con- 
cerned about the event. The Baron, too, had often been one 
of his visitors. He rode to Preston, ‘to see peace &c.’, and in 
January 1 590 there was a great company of lawyers at his house 
to discuss the affair, including Thomas Hesketh of Gray’s Inn, 
Alexander Houghton’s brother-in-law and executor. Visits 
were also paid during the winter and spring by his other 
brother-in-law, Bartholomew Hesketh. Meanwhile both 
Richard Houghton and the Baron came and went, and in the 
end, rightly or wrongly — for who shall say, when an Earl 
intervenes.? — the Baron was acquitted of manslaughter at the 
Assizes. A last visit by Richard Houghton is recorded in June 
1 590, and thereafter the family drops out of Farington’s story. 
From other sources I learn that Anne, the widow of Thomas 
Houghton, then still of Lea, was ordered to custody as a 
Catholic recusant in October 1592 {Calendar Ha^eld MSS.^ 
iv. 242; Baker, 303), and that in February 1594 a yellow- 
haired Hesketh, whose Christian name is not given, was alleged 
to have said at Prague that he left Lancashire for the slaughter 
of Mr. Houghton {Cal. Hatf. MSS., iv. 481). 


I turn now to Sir Thomas Hesketh and his family, and their 
connexion with the Stanleys. Sir Thomas was of RufFord, 
Lancashire. Thomas Hesketh of Gray’s Inn, Bartholomew, 
his brother, and Elizabeth Houghton, his sister, were rela- 
tions, but came from a different branch of the family, being 
children of Gabriel Hesketh of Aughton, Lancashire. Sir 
Thomas came to the Earl of Derby’s house on 25 May 1587 
and again on the following 30 December. Farington’s note on 
this second occasion is rather an odd one, and I shall have to 
revert to it. It runs, ‘On Saturday S' Tho. Hesketh, Players 
went awaie’. Sir Thomas came again in January 1588, with a 
son. Baker says that he died in 1587. But that is obviously an 
error. Raines gives an abstract of his will, which is dated on 
20 June 1588. He left three legitimate sons by his wife, Alice 
Holcroft, Robert, who was his heir, Thomas, and Richard. 
An executor was again Thomas Hesketh of Gray’s Inn. I think 
there can be no doubt that the D.N.B. is wrong in identifying 
this son Richard with the Richard Hesketh, a Catholic in- 
triguer, who was executed in 1 593, for attempting to persuade 
Ferdinando, Earl of Derby, to put forward a claim to the crown 
of England in succession to Elizabeth. There are several docu- 
ments about this affair among the Hatfield archives, and it is 
clear from them that he was a brother of Bartholomew, who 
was himself regarded in 1 592 as a dangerous person, if not 
actually a recusant. Thomas of Gray’s Inn, on the other hnad, 
although he thought that the Earl of Derby had dealt hardly 
with his brother, seems to have been a loyalist (Ca/. Half. MSS.., 
iv. 127, 241, 381, 389, 390, 402, 407, 408, 409, 41 1, 418, 
421, 423, 425, 427, 428, 461; V. 58, 277, 360, 369, 390; 
xiii. 493). The will of Sir Thomas Hesketh contains no clear 
evidence that he maintained players. There are annuities for 
two servants, Degory Rishton and John Spenser. It may be 
coincidence that the manuscript of the Parnassus plays was 
owned about 1605 by one ‘Edmunde Rishton, Lancastrensis’, 
and that a John Spencer was an English actor in Germany 
during 1605-23 {Elizabethan Stage, ii. 341 ; iv. 38). After the 
date of Sir Thomas Hesketh’s will. Lady Hesketh was at Lord 
Derby’s house in October 1588, with a son, presumably 
Robert, the heir, who was also there in June 1589 and in 
February and May 1590. 

The Stanleys maintained players through many years. Earl 
Henry had a company from an hut it is not heard 


of after 1582. Probably it passed to his son Ferdinando, 
Lord Strange, who himself became Earl in 1593. I need not 
go again into the complicated history of his players, who are 
first recorded in 1 576-7, when he was little more than a boy, 
are sometimes described as tumblers or performers of activi- 
ties, and stood at various times in relations with one John 
Symons, and with other groups under the patronage of the 
Lord Admiral Howard, the Earls of Oxford and Pembroke, 
and the Queen herself, up to Earl Ferdinando’s death in 1 594, 
when a final shuffle left the domination of the London stage to 
Lord Hunsdon’s company at the Theatre and the Lord 
Admiral’s at the Rose (E.S.y ii. 118-27; fE'.S., i. 27-56). 
Lord Strange was often at his father’s Lancashire houses, and 
there are many records of visits by players — the Earl of 
Leicester’s in July 1587, the Queen’s in October 1588, July 
and September 1589, and June 1590, and the Earl of Essex’s 
in September 1589. Of others, in December 1588, January 
1 589, and February 1590, the patrons are not named. On the 
first of these occasions Farington notes, ‘ a Playe was had in the 
Halle, & the same nyght my L. Strandge came home’; on the 
second only ‘the Plaiers plaied’; on the third ‘Players played at 
nyght’. I think it possible that these anonymous players werg 
Strange’s own men. Certainly he seems to have been at hi 
father’s house on all the three days concerned. I have already 
noted the rather ambiguous entry for 30 December 1587, ‘S' 
Tho. Hesketh, Players went awaie’. Farington had not pre- 
viously noted the coming of either of them. His jottings are 
sometimes rough, but I should like to be sure about that 
comma. Could he have written ‘Hesketh and’ or ‘Heskethw’ ? 
That, however, is the sort of point, which it is impossible to 
pursue in war-time. In any case it is clear that, if William 
Shakeshafte passed from the service of Alexander Houghton 
into that of either Thomas Houghton or Sir Thomas Hesketh, 
he might very easily have gone on into that of Lord Strange, 
and so later into the London theatrical world, where we find in 
1592 William Shakespeare, writing probably for Lord Pem- 
broke’s men, and called by the envious Robert Greene ‘the only 
Shake-scene in a countrey’ (PF.S., i. 287; ii. 188). 

1943 - 


The thanks of The Library are due to the Marquis of Bath for 
his courteous permission to reproduce the attached drawing 
and script by Henry Peacham, artist, schoolmaster, epigram- 
matist, and pamphleteer, from vol. i, f. 159'', of the Harley 
Papers at Longleat.^ Whatever may be thought of the relation 
of Peacham’s text to Titus Andronicus^ the drawing is at least of 
interest as the first known illustration to any play of the Shake- 
spearean canon. Incidentally it may inform students of Othello., 
as well as of Titus, that to the Elizabethan mind a Moor was 
not tawny but dead black. 

The document was calendared by Mrs. S. C. Lomas in 1 907 
{H. M, Comm., Longleat Papers, ii. 43), but has not received 
much, if any, attention from writers on Shakespeare. It con- 
sists of a single sheet, endorsed on a spare page — 

This perhaps enables us to interpret the rather cryptic date 
‘Anno m° q® q q‘“’, which Peacham has written against the 
script, beneath his own name, although the ‘q*°’ taken by 
itself might represent either ‘quinto’ or ‘quarto’, and, unless 
‘ q’ is a slip for an arabic 9, it is difficult to see how it can repre- 
sent ‘nono’. Most of the Elizabethan papers in the composite 
volume were brought from Welbeck to Longleat by Lady 
Elizabeth Bentinck in 1759, and derive ultimately from the 
study of Sir Michael Hicks, a secretary to the first Lord Burgh- 
ley. This may be one of them, although Mrs. Lomas does not 
identify the hand of the endorsement, which is not that of either 
Burghley or Hicks, and a pencilled reference in the margin to 
the second Sir John Thynne (1580-1623) may suggest that it 
had been preserved since the sixteenth century at Longleat 
itself. No doubt Peacham, born at North Mimms, is more 
likely a priori to have been in touch with Theobalds than with 

1 The drawing i» now again reproduced as a frontispiece to this volume. 

4»ai 57 • 


I now give the text of the script which accompanies the 
drawing, and a collation of its variants, other than those of 
mere orthography, which are numerous, from the correspond- 
ing passages of Qa (1600) and Fj (1623) of Titus Andronicus. 
Obviously, if Peacham used any extant print, it would be 
(1594). The only known copy is in the collection of Mr. H. C. 
Folger, and has not, I believe, been reproduced. The collation 
by E. Ljunggren in Shakespeare-Jahrhuchy xli. 21 1, shows no 
divergences as regards these passages from Qa> except ‘hay- 
stalkes' for ‘hay stakes’ in 1. 31, where the ‘haystackes’ of 
the manuscript agrees with F^. But Ljunggren also neglects 
mere orthographic variants, and it is possible that the 
manuscript might prove to be generally closer as regards 
spelling to Qi than to Qg. Punctuation the manuscript has 

Enter Tamora pleadinge for her sonncs going to 

Tam: Stay Romane bretheren gratious Conquerors 
Victorious Titus rue the teares I shed 
A mothers teares in passion of her sonnes 
And if thy sonnes were ever deare to thee 
Oh thinke my sonnes to bee as deare to mee 
Suffizeth not that wee are brought to Roome 
To beautify thy triumphes and returne 
Captiue to thee and to thy Romane yoake 
But must my sonnes be slaughtered in the streetes 
for valiant doinges in there Cuntryes cause 
Oh if to fight for kinge and Common weale 
Were piety in thine it is in these 
Andronicus staine not thy tombe with blood 
Wilt thou drawe neere the nature of the God^i 
Eirawe neere them then in being mercifull 
Sweete mercy is nobilityes true badge 
Thrice noble Titus spare my first borne sonne 

Titus; Patient your selfe madame for dy hee must 
Aaron do you likewise prepare your selfe 
And now at last repent your wicked life 

1-2 Enter . . . execution] Qg (*• E 7 ®) • • • • • • Tamora the Queene of 

Gothes and her two sonnes, Chiron and Demetrius, with Aron {F^ Aaron) the 
More . . . 3--20 Tam; Stay . . . madame i. i. 104-21 as in Qg which 

end the last line with and pardon me. 3 Conquerors] Qg Conquerer; 
Conqueror. “ 5 of her sonnes] j 2 g F^ for her sonne. 7 sonnes] Qg sonne; 
Fi sonnes. 20-2 for . . . life] gg Fj omit. 


Aron: Ah now I curse the day and yet I thinke 

few comes within the compasse of my curse 
Wherein I did not some notorious ill 
As kill a man or els devise his death 
Ravish a mayd or plott the way to do it 
Acuse some innocent and forsweare my selfe 
Set deadly enmity betweene too freend^^ 

Make poore mens cattell breake theire ncckes 
Set fire on barnes and haystackes in the night 
And bid the owners quench them imth their teares 
Oft have I digd vp dead men from their graves 
And set them vpright at their deere frend^r dore 
Even almost when theire sorrowes was forgott 
And on their brestes as on the barke of trees 
Have with my knife carvd in Romane letters 
Lett not your sorrowc dy though I am dead 
Tut I have done a thousand dreadfull thinges 
As willingly as one would kill a fly 
And nothing grcives mce hardly indcede 
for that I cannot doo ten thousand more & cetera 


23-42 Aron: Ah . . . more = v. i. 125-44 as in gg ^1. •which have no ‘ 8 c 
cetera'. 23 Ah] Euen 24 comes] Ej come, the] few. 31 hay- 

stackes] haystalkes; haystakes; Fy Haystackes. 32 their teares] F^ the 
teares. 3 5 Even almost when theire sorrowes] Qj Euen when their sorrowes 
almost. 36 brestes] Q2 F^ skinnes. 37 carvd] Q2 F^ carued. 42 for] 
Q2 Fj But. 43 Alarbus] This character has no speech in Q2 F^. 

It will be seen that the speeches of Tamora and Aaron in 
the manuscript, but for the omission of the first line of Aaron’s 
(v. i. 124), are substantially identical with those in the prints; 
and the slight verbal variants, even that of ‘ brestes ’ for ‘ skinnes ’, 
are not in themselves beyond the compass of a transcriber more 
intent upon his penmanship than his textual accuracy. But 
there are some odd features to be recorded. In the first place, 
while the references to Tamora ’s sons are not absolutely con- 
sistent either in the prints or in the manuscript, it is clear that 
the death of one only, Alarbus, is contemplated in the former, 
and equally clear that the death of at least two is contemplated 
in the latter. And this is confirmed by the drawing, which 
shows two bound captives kneeling behind Tamora. Secondly, 
in the prints Alarbus never speaks, but the manuscript ends 
with a speech-prefix for him. And thirdly, in the prints Aaron, 
although present, does not speak in the supplication scene, but 







in the manuscript he is given a speech which the prints put in 
V. i, and this is linked to Tamora’s by two lines and a half for 
Titus, which are not in the prints at all. This is not necessitated 
by the drawing, in which the posture of Aaron — for the black 
figure must be Aaron and not an executioner — ^would need no 
alteration, if he were merely championing the princes and were 
not on his own defence at all. Are we then to infer that 
Peacham had before him an early version of the play and that 
this was afterwards rearranged? It would be a hazardous 
conclusion, and it would of course be more hazardous still to 
suggest that Peacham was the ‘private author’ whose work, 
according to the tradition reported by Edward Ravenscroft in 
1687, was touched up by Shakespeare. Peacham only took his 
bachelor’s degree in 1 59 5, the year of the sketch, and Titus 
Andronicus seems to have been played in some form by Sussex’s 
men in January 1594, if not also by Strange’s men in April 
1592. And although Peacham saw Tarlton as a boy, and has 
allusions to the life of the theatre here and there in his epigrams 
and pamphlets, there is no indication outside the manuscript 
that he was ever a playwright. But why he should have per- 
verted the Quarto text for the purpose of making an illustra- 
tion of it, it is difficult to see. 

A friend suggests to me that the sheet may have been done 
by Peacham for a competition in penmanship, and cites as an 
analogy the sets of verses on Ecclesiasticus, of which one is 
reproduced by Mr. McKerrow in his edition of Nashe (iii. 
298). He may be right, although I do not see anything, in 
either case, which points very clearly to a competition. But 
a reason for the manipulation of the text would still be to seek. 
In general design the sheet is not unlike the pages of woodcut 
emblems in Peacham’s Minerva Britanna (i 6 1 2) or the coloured 
illustrations to King James’s Basilican Doran in Royal MS. 
12 A, Ixvi, which he gave to Prince Henry in 1610. 




It has long been recognized that the epithalamic ending of 
A Midsummer-Night' s Dream points to performance at a wed- 
ding, and that the compliment to the ‘fair vestal throned by 
the west' points to a wedding at which Queen Elizabeth was 
present. The most plausible date hitherto suggested is 26 Jan- 
uary 1595, on which William Stanley, Earl of Derby, married 
the Lady Elizabeth Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford, 
granddaughter of William, Lord Burghley, and goddaughter 
and maid of honour to the Queen. This would fit in well 
enough with the allusions in the play to the bad weather of 
1594, and to the lion at the baptism of Prince Henry of Scot- 
land on 30 August of the same year; while the presence of 
Elizabeth has been inferred from the words of Stowe, who says 
that ‘The 26 of January William Earl of Derby married the 
Earl of Oxford’s daughter at the court then at Greenwich, 
which marriage feast was there most royally kept’. I have long 
been puzzled by the statement that the wedding was ‘at the 
court’; not so much because the Treasurer of the Chamber 
made no payment for a court play on 26 January 1595, since 
the performance might have been ordered, not by the Queen, 
but by the friends of the bride or bridegroom, as because the 
wedding itself does not appear in the list of those solemnized 
in the royal chapel and closet which is preserved in the so-called 
‘Cheque-Book’ of the Chapel (ed. E. F. Rimbault, 160), and 
I have now good reason to think that Stowe made a mistake on 
this point, for in the accounts of the churchwardens of St. 
Martin’s, Westminster (ed. J. V. Kitto, 471), I find for the 
year 1595 the following entry: 

Item paid the xxx*'’ of January for ringinge At her Ma**'® Comynge to 
y* Lord Threasurers to y* Earle of Darbies weddinge And at her Depar- 
ture from thence y' fyrst of ffebruary ij®. 

The court appears, indeed, to have been established at 
Greenwich from the middle of December 1594 to the middle 
of February 1595. But it was not uncommon for Elizabeth, 
especially in her somewhat restless old age, to leave the court 
for a day or two’s sojourn with some favoured courtier in 


London or the neighbouring villages* and it was evidently upon 
such an occasion that she did honour to the nuptials of Eliza- 
beth Vere at Burghley House in the Strand. There is no entry 
of the marriage in the registers of St. Martin’s or of St. 
Clement Danes, in which parishes Burghley House stood, and 
I think it is probable that it took place in the chapel of the 
Savoy, hard by, the registers of which are lost, for a contem- 
porary record of another wedding, a few years later, tells us 
(//.M.C., Rutland MSS. i. 379): 

The feast was held here at Burghley howse. bryde with her hayre 
hanging downe was led betwen two yong bachelors from Burghley 
Howse thorough the streete, strawed, to the Savoy gate against my lodg- 
ing, and so to that church. 

I do not think thkt it is necessary, on the strength of the St. 
Martin’s entry, to reject Stowe’s date as well as his locality. 
The bell-ringings for Elizabeth’s removals are often entered 
with only approximate accuracy, possibly because the church- 
wardens recorded the dates of the payments rather than those 
of the services rendered. And Stowe’s 26 January can in fact 
be confirmed from another source. On 27 January Anthony 
Bacon wrote from London to Francis Bacon at Twickenham, 
telling him that Antonio Perez had highly commended the 
Queen’s grace and the royal magnificence of some court 
solemnity then on hand (T. Birch, Elizabeth^ i. 199), and this 
crossed a letter of the same date from Francis to Anthony 
(Spedding, Life and Letters^ i. 353), in which he said: 

I hope by this time Antonio Perez hath seen the Queen dance (that is 
not it, but her disposition of body to be fresh and good I pray God both 
subjects and strangers may long be witnesses of). I would be sorry the 
bride and bridegroom should be as the weather hath fallen out, that is go 
to bed fair and rise lowring. 

Spedding could not identify the bride and bridegroom, but 
there can be no doubt about them. Elizabeth, of course, was 
ready to dance on the edge of her grave ; Burghley, the master 
of the feast, old and gouty, was for other than for dancing 
measures. He had written to Robert Cecil on 2 December 
(T. Wright, Elizabeth and her Times ^ ii. 440): 

For her hope to have me dance, I must have a longer tyme to learn to 
go, but I will be ready in mynd to dance with my hart, when I shall 
behold her favorable disposition to do such honor to her mayd, for the 
old man’s sake. 


‘a midsummer-night’s dream’ 

And on 2 January he added: 

Though my hand is unable to fight, and my right eye unable to take a 
levell, yet they both do stoop to return my humble thankes for continuance 
of her favor at this tyme, when I am more fitter for an hospital, than to 
be a party for a marriage. 

These notices of the wedding indicate a mask, rather than a 
play; but the two would not be incompatible. The internal 
evidence of ^4 Midsummer-Night's Dream does not take us much 
farther. The much-travelled Theseus might have been thought 
appropriate to William Stanley, whose own travels are said to 
have taken him as far as the Holy Land and Russia, and in 
later Lancashire legends grew to quite mythical proportions. 
There is the famous passage in which occurs the compliment 
to Elizabeth. The attempts of the older commentators to turn 
the mermaid and the falling stars and the little western flower 
into an allegory of Mary Queen of Scots and the northern 
rebellion, or of the intrigue of Leicester with the Countess of 
Essex, may be summarily disregarded. Whatever else compli- 
mentary poetry is, it must be in the first place gratifying to the 
person complimented, and in the second place reasonably topi- 
cal. The northern rebellion and Leicester’s marriage were both 
forgotten far-off things in 1595, nor was either of them calcu- 
lated to give Elizabeth much pleasure in the retrospect. The 
marriage in particular had caused her bitter mortification in its 
day, and if Edmund Tilney had allowed Shakespeare to allude 
to it before her, he would have signed his own warrant for the 
Tower, and Shakespeare’s for the Marshalsea. What Shake- 
speare was describing was, as it professed to be, a water-pageant 
with fireworks. But again, it is only a want of historical per- 
spective or a sentimental desire to find a reminiscence of Shake- 
speare’s childhood in his plays, which can explain the common 
identification of this water-pageant with that given at Kenil- 
worth as far back as 1 575. The princely pleasures of Kenil- 
worth loom large to us out of the fragmentary records of 
Elizabeth’s progresses, because they were set down in a racy 
pamphlet at the time, and becajuse Scott used them as material 
for a novel. But there were many such entertainments both 
before and after, and if Shakespeare had any particular one in 
mind, it is far more likely to have been that which had occurred 
comparatively recently, when Elizabeth visited the Earl of 
Hertford at Elvetham in September 1591. Asa matter of fact, 
there was not a mermaid on a dolphin’s back either at Kenil- 


worth or at Elvetham. At Kenilworth there was a Triton on a 
mermaid’s back, which is not quite the same thing. There was 
the Lady of the Lake, who might perhaps be called a sea-maid. 
And there was Arion on a dolphin’s back, who sang to the 
music of instruments in the dolphin’s belly. There were fire- 
works also, but apparently not on the same day as the water- 
pageant. At Elvetham there was ‘a pompous aray of sea- 
persons’, including Nereus, five Tritons, Neptune, and 
Oceanus, with ‘other sea-gods’ and a train in ‘ouglie marine 
suites’. They brought in Neaera, the ‘sea-nymph’, who sang 
a ditty. Meanwhile a ‘snail-mount’ in the water resembled ‘a 
monster, having homes of wild-fire continuously burning’ ; but 
here also the principal display of fireworks was on another day. 
Obviously, so far as subject-matter goes, Elvetham might, just 
as well as Kenilworth, have furnished the motive for the ex- 
tremely sketchy reminiscences of Oberon. It may be added 
that at Elvetham the queen of the fairies, not for the first time 
in the history of Elizabethan pageantry, had made her appear- 
ance. She is called Aureola, not Titania, but names the king 
as Auberon. It goes without saying that Cupid all armed is 
not mentioned in either account. He could only be seen by 
Oberon. But it is to Cupid and the wound inflicted by his bolt 
on the little western flower that the whole description leads up. 
The flower has a part in the action of the play, and possibly 
we ought not to seek for any further motive for its introduc- 
tion. But if it points, as some think, to an enamoured woman, 
how can this possibly be Lady Essex, or anybody else but the 
bride in whose glorification, next only to that of Elizabeth, the 
play was written.? I do not assert that William Stanley and 
Elizabeth Vere, then sixteen, met and loved at Elvetham in 
1591. Indeed, as will be seen before the end of this article, 
I do not assert that William Stanley and Elizabeth Vere were 
the bridegroom and bride of the play at all. But Elizabeth 
Vere, as one of the queen’s maids, is at least likely to have been 
there, and William Stanley, who was coming and going in 
1589 and 1590 between London and his father’s houses in the 
north {Stanley Papers^ ii. 66, 78, 82), may quite well have been 
there too. Elizabeth Vere’s marriage had been one of the pre- 
occupations of Lord Burghley, who had evidently taken over 
the responsibilities of her fantastic father, the Earl of Oxford, 
for some years before 1595. Early in 1591, the Earl of Bed- 
ford was spoken of {S. P. Dorn. Eliz. ccxxxviii. 69), but it came 

‘a midsummer-night’s dream’ 65 

to nothing, and Bedford married ‘ the Muses’ evening, as their 
morning, star’, Lucy Harington. About 1592 Burghley had 
been making suit for the Earl of Northumberland, ‘ but my 
Lady Veare hath answered her grandfather that she can not 
fancye him’ (//.M.C., Rutland MSS. i. 300). William Stanley 
was at this time only an undistinguished younger son, and 
Burghley, perhaps the greatest of our civil servants, had the 
civil servant’s not uncommon foible for founding a dynasty. It 
was in 1594 that the deaths in rapid succession of his father 
and his elder brother left Stanley the most eligible match in 

Philostrate offers as a wedding device the ‘satire keen and 
critical’, of — 

The thrice three Muses mourning for the death 
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary. 

This has been regarded as support for the Stanley-Vere 
identification, on the ground that Spenser’s Tears of the Muses 
was dedicated in 1591 to Lady Strange, the wife of Stanley’s 
brother and predecessor in the title. I have used the argument 
myself, but I now doubt its validity. It is not at all clear that 
this lady would have been at the wedding. There was bitter 
feud in 1595 between her and her brother-in-law over the suc- 
cession to the Derby estates, and already on 9 May 1594, she 
had written to Burghley (H.M.C., Hatfield MSS. iv. 527): 

I hear of a motion of marriage between the Earl, my brother, and my 
Lady Vere, your niece, but how true the news is I know not, only I wish 
her a better husband. 

One wonders how far Lady Derby was cognizant of the 
rumours sedulously spread about the country by the Jesuits as 
to the death of the late Earl, which had been sudden, had 
suggested suspicions of poisoning or witchcraft, and had robbed 
the Catholic intriguers of a hoped-for pretender. One version 
(H.M.C.., Hatfield MSS. v. 253) ascribed a crime to ‘my lord 
that now is’; another {S. P. Dom. Eliz. ccxlix. 92) to Burghley, 
in order that he might marry the young Lady Vere to the 
Earl’s brother. I now come to the rather curious fact that at 
the Stanley-Vere wedding there actually does appear to have 
been a show of the nine muses, although it was not in the least 
concerned with ‘Learning, late deceased in beggary’. This 
emerges from a letter written by Arthur Throgmorton to 
Robert Cecil {H.M.C., Hatfield MSS. v. 99). It is a curious 


side-light, not merely upon the methods, but upon some of the 
underlying motives of Elizabethan pageantry. 

Matter of mirth from a good mind can minister no matter of malice, 
both being, as I believe, far from such sourness (and for myself I will 
answer for soundness). I am bold to write my determination, grounded 
upon grief and true duty to the Queen, thankfulness to my lord of Derby, 
(whose honourable brother honoured my marriage) and to assure you I 
bear no spleen to yourself. If I may I mind to come in a masque, brought 
in by the nine muses, whose music, I hope, shall so modify the easy 
softened mind of her Majesty as both I and mine may find mercy. The 
song, the substance I have herewith sent you, myself, whilst the singing, 
to lie prostrate at her Majesty’s feet till she says she will save me. Upon 
my resurrection the song shall be delivered by one of the muses, with a 
ring made for a wedding ring set round with diamonds, and with a ruby 
like a heart placed in a coronet, with this inscription, Eli%abetha potest, 
I durst not do this before I had acquainted you herewith, understanding 
her Majesty had appointed the masquers, which resolution hath made me 
the unreadier: yet, if this night I may know her Majesty’s leave and your 
liking, I hope not to come too late, though the time be short for such a 
show and my preparations posted for such a presence. I desire to come 
in before the other masque, for I am sorrowful and solemn, and my stay 
shall not be long. I rest upon your resolution, which must be for this 
business to-night or not at all. 

The letter is only endorsed ‘Jan. 1594’, but the reference to 
Lord Derby serves to relate it. Arthur Throgmorton of 
Paulerspury was brother of Elizabeth Throgmorton, who mar- 
ried Sir Walter Raleigh. But he can hardly have been wishing 
in 1595 to purge the offence given by his sister in 1592, and 
of his own marriage I only know that it was to Anne, daughter 
of Sir John Lucas of Essex (Bridges, Northamptonshire,^ i. 3 1 2). 
Nor can one quite see why he should have intruded his private 
affairs upon Derby’s festival. 

This note is growing upon my hands into a dissertation. I 
must refrain from discussing the troubled early married life of 
the Stanleys, which justified Bacon’s fear that they might ‘go 
to bed fair and rise lowring’, rather than Oberon’s benediction 
of ‘the best bride-bed’ ; or the later connexion of the earl with 
a company of players, which led a quite competent archivist to 
the astounding discovery that he, another W. S., was the real 
author of Shakespeare’s plays. But I am afraid I must add that 
I am by no means convinced that A Midsummer-Night* s Dream 
was given on 26 January 1595, at all, although the plausibili- 
ties are perhaps more in favour of that date than any other. 

‘a midsummer-night’s dream’ 67 

I should like, however, to be able to explore more fully the 
circumstances of a wedding which has never yet been con- 
sidered, that of Thomas, son of Henry Lord Berkeley, and 
Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Carey, on 1 9 February 1 596. 
This is stated in the latest edition of G. E. C.’s peerage, pro- 
bably on the evidence of the unprinted registers of St. Anne’s, 
to have taken place from the Blackfriars, which is extremely 
likely, as Sir George Carey had his town house there, next door 
to the building which became Burbage’s Blackfriars theatre. 
But I do not know that the Queen was present, although she 
may well have been, as Elizabeth Carey was another of her god- 
daughters, and granddaughter of her first cousin and Lord 
Chamberlain, Henry Lord Hunsdon. The attractiveness of the 
suggestion lies in the fact that Shakespeare’s company were 
Lord Hunsdon’s men, and subsequently passed under Sir 
George Carey’s own patronage, when he in his turn became 
Lord Hunsdon on his father’s death later in 1596. Lady Carey 
was a sister of the Lady Strange to whom The Tears of the Muses 
was dedicated. Sir George Carey is known to have been 
present at the Elvetham entertainment of 1591, but it would 
hardly be possible to put the origin of the Berkeley-Carey 
match there, for it was only in 1595 that this was arranged, 
after negotiations for Lord Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pem- 
broke, had fallen through, and the Berkeley family chronicler 
definitely places the beginnings of affection between the young 
couple in the autumn of that year (Collins, Sydney Papers^ i. 
353 ) 372; T. Smyth, Lives of the Berkeley s^ ii. 383, 395). 



I HAVE, in the past, had more occasion than I could have wished, 
to criticize the writings of Professor J. Dover Wilson on Shake- 
speare, notably for ascribing to the poet a constant habit of 
revising his own plays, in which I do not believe, and even 
sometimes the retention of passages from those of earlier drama- 
tists, used by him as sources. Pausanias tells us how he once 
visited a temple, in which was a picture by a famous Greek 
painter of Odysseus in Hades. Among other figures depicted 
was one of Oknos, condemned eternally to weave a rope of 
hay, while an ass stood behind him, eating up the rope as fast 
as he wove it. I have sometimes felt that I stood in the relation 
of that ass to Professor Wilson. The parallel, no doubt, cuts 
both ways. 

I have, however, much admiration for Professor Wilson’s 
exhaustive work on Hamlet., which supplements an edition of 
the play in 1934, with a two-volume study of The Manuscript 
oj Shakespeare's Hamlet in the same year, an excursus on What 
Happens in Hamlet in 1935, some Corrections and Additional 
Notes to the edition in 1936. I am now led, with the help of 
these, to revise the ascription in my William Shakespeare (1930) 
of the play, as we find it more or less in the Second Quarto and 
the First Folio, to 1600, and to put it, as Professor Wilson 
does, in 1601. I had been influenced, unduly as I now think, 
by a note of Gabriel Harvey in his copy of Speght’s Chaucer 
(1598), in which he praises Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and also 
records that ‘the Earle of Essex much commendes Albions 
England’. This wording, in the present tense, made me think 
that the note must have been written before the death of Essex 
on 25 February 1601, and that, indeed, is the easiest interpre- 
tation of it. I do not agree with Professor Wilson that Harvey 
was writing of an earlier version by Shakespeare of the old 
dramatic theme of Hamlet, than that which has come down to 
us, for of any such version I find no other evidence. But I think 
it is possible, either that ‘commendes’ is a scribal error for 
‘commended’, or that Harvey had access to some letter or 
other writing by Essex on Albion's England, which has not 
come down to us. In any case, I do not, on further reflection, 
think that Hamlet, as we have it, can possibly have been written 



in 1600. The travelling of the ‘tragedians of the city’ is 
ascribed (ii. ii. 346) to a ‘late innovation’ which has led to an 
‘inhibition’. No doubt, an ‘innovation’ may mean no more 
than an introduction of a novelty. Shakespeare, however, uses 
the word or the cognate ‘innovator’ very rarely, and only in the 
sense of a political upheaval, or something analogous to that. 
In I Henry IV (v. i. 76) we read of 

poor discontents, 

Which gape and rub the elbow at the news 

Of hurly-burly innovation. 

In Othello (ii. iii. 41) the term is metaphorical, expressing the 
effect of a cup of drink, ‘that was craftily qualified too, and, 
behold, what innovation it makes here’. \nCoriolanus{iiiA, 175) 
the tribune, Sicinius, calls Coriolanus, 

a traitorous innovator, 

A foe to the public weal. 

I do not now see how the innovation followed by an inhibition 
of Hamlet can well be anything but the outbreak of the Earl of 
Essex on 8 February 1601. It is true that we have no record of 
any inhibition ordered by the Privy Council at that time. Pos- 
sibly one was imposed by the City and local Justices themselves 
without waiting for ihstructions. Plays were given at court by 
the Chapel boys on 22 February and by the Lord Chamber- 
lain’s men on 24 February, the eve of Essex’s execution. These 
would not necessarily be affected by any measures taken to pre- 
vent popular gatherings in the streets. An order of 1 1 March 
1601 requiring the Chapel and Paul’s boys to suspend playing 
during Lent was merely common form at the penitential season. 
I do not think that the Chamberlain’s play of 24 February can 
have been Hamlet. In that the passage which refers to the 
travelling of the tragedians of the city, as the result of an in- 
hibition, is followed by another, which states that they had lost 
estimation through the activity of an aery of children who 
berattled the common stages and reduced their audience. Poet 
and player had gone to cuffs in the question, and even Hercules 
and his load, that is to say the company at the Globe, had suf- 
fered. Shakespeare seems here to have dropped the topic of 
the ‘innovation’, and to have in mind the general attack upon 
the common stages in Ben Jonson’s Poetaster ,which was a late 
outcome of the more personal controversy, already three years 
old, between Jonson himself and the poets Martson and 
Dekker, and Poetaster can hardly be earlier than the spring of 


i6oi, since in it Histrio declares (ni. iv. 328) that ‘This 
winter ha’s made vs all poorer, then so many staru’d snakes’. 
Here we have again the inhibition and its financial result to the 
players. If then, as seems probable, Hamlet shows an aware- 
ness of Jonson’s baiting of the common stages in Poetaster, 
Professor Wilson’s dating of it in the summer or autumn of 
1601 is better than mine. In an ‘apologeticall Dialogue’ about 
Poetaster, spoken at some performance other than the first, and 
printed in the Quarto registered on 2 1 December 1601, Jonson 
refers to critics of his play and adds, 

Onely amongst them, I am sorry for 
Some better natures, by the rest so drawne. 

To run in that vile line. 

If he is referring to Shakespeare, that might give a final date 
for Hamlet. But I see no obvious criticism of Jonson, person- 
ally, there. Nor do I think that Hamlet can be the ‘purge’, 
which, according to the Cambridge writer of the second Re- 
turne from Pernassus, dating probably from the winter of 
1601-2, Shakespeare once gave to Jonson. 

I have still, however, to my regret, a little bone to pick with 
Professor Wilson. He cites, in confirmation of his date, a sup- 
posed reference to a notable episode of contemporary history. 
Here he had been anticipated by Dr. G. B. Harrison in his 
Last Elizabethan Journal, and his Shakespeare at W ork, both 
of 1933. The theory rests upon the scene (iv. iv), in which a 
Norwegian captain, marching through Denmark, in order to 
make war on Poland, meets Hamlet, and tells him. 

We go to gain a little patch of ground 
That hath in it no profit but the name. 

To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it. 

Hamlet replies. 

Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats 
Will not debate the question of this straw. 

And, when left alone, he compares this enterprise for an egg- 
shell or a straw with his own irresolution, 

while to my shame I see 
The imminent death of twenty thousand men. 

That for a fentasy and trick of feme 
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot 
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause. 

Which is not tomb enough and continent 
To hide the slain. 


The ‘little patch of ground’, according to Professor Wilson, 
was the Dutch town of Ostend, a siege of which by the Arch- 
duke Albert of Flanders had begun late in June 1 6oi . And he 
finds confirmation of this, both in news-pamphlets published 
in England during its progress, all' of which, he says, ‘ insist 
upon the insignificance and sterility of the little plot of sandy 
ground fought for’, and in a volume of French poems entitled 
Ostende (B.M. 1192, g.6), and dated in 1 603, from one of which 
he quotes the lines. 

Tout le subiect de ce siege hazardeux 
N’est que ce champ infertile et poudreux. 

The poems are apparently by different writers, he tells me, and 
at least four of them describe the combatants as shedding their 
blood ‘pour un peu de poussi^re sterile’. He claims, too, in 
support of his view, the following sentences from an account of 
the event in Camden’s Elizabeth, 

There was not in our age any seige and defence maintained with 
greater slaughter of men, nor continued longer. ... For the most war- 
like souldiers of the Low Countreys, Spaine, England, F ranee, Scotland 
and Italy, whilest they most eagerly contended for a barren plot of sand, 
had as it were one common sepulcher, but an eternal monument of their 

This is, of course, a translation from the Latin of Camden’s 
Annales, which runs, in the edition of 1625, 

Nec alia, maiori clade, oppugnatio et propugnatio diutius nostro seculo 
continuata . . . Bellicosissimis enim ex Belgio, Hispania, Anglia, Gallia, 
Scotia et Italia viris, dum de sterili arena pugnacissime decertarunt, quasi 
commune erat sepulchrum, aeternumque virtutis monumentum. 

The translator has put the sand into it, but arena may mean no 
more than ‘coast’. 

I have, unfortunately, not been able, under war conditions, 
to see the Ostende poems, or the full texts of the news-pamph- 
lets. Of these there seem to have been at least five. One (Short- 
Title Catalogue 18893) was registered on 5 August 1601, but 
had still to be translated from the Dutch before publication. 
It appears to be this which, according to Professor Wilson, 
particularly struck Shakespeare’s imagination. It describes 
fighting during July 1601 at a ‘place of buriall’, which he 
thinks suggested the ‘plot’ in Hamlet, 

not tomb enough and continent 
To hide the slain. 


It was not within Ostend itself, but on high ground, once an 
old churchyard, outside it. And the pamphlet also contains a 
mention of the rescue of a man from drowning on a piece of a 
mast, which Professor Wilson thinks suggested the similar 
escape of Sebastian in Twelfth Night (i. ii). Shakespeare may, 
no doubt, easily have seen this pamphlet. A second (^S.T.C. 
18894) was apparently published in 1601 without registration. 
It records events of both July and August in that year. A third 
(S.T.C. 24651), registered on 10 January 1602, describes a 
parley of 20 December 1601, devised to enable Vere to bring 
in reinforcements, and a subsequent assault by the Archduke 
on 28 December. Copies of this were sent by Sir Robert Cecil 
to two correspondents, shortly after its issue. He says that it 
came out sine privilegio, and notes that ‘such is the greediness 
of printers, as they will never refuse anything that is brought to 
the press’ (Cal. Hatfield MSS. xii. 34; xiv. 207-10). Two 
others (S.T.C. 18891 and 18892) were registered on 2 and 25 
February 1602 respectively. I do not think that any date later 
than 1601 can be claimed for Hamlet. No doubt all this jour- 
nalism was eagerly read by Shakespeare, as well as others. Dr. 
Harrison’s summaries of it in his Last Elizabethan Journal do 
not include those constant references to the sterility of the 
ground, which Professor Wilson seems to have noted. 

We are not, of course, wholly dependent upon poems and 
news-pamphlets for our knowledge of the nature of Ostend in 
1601, or of the progress of the siege, which lasted to 24 Sep- 
tember 1604. Up to 7 March 1602 the defence of the place 
was undertaken mainly by English troops, under the command 
of Sir Francis Vere. Thereafter it passed to the Dutch. An 
account of the struggle was published by Edward Grimeston 
in 1604, and others, by Henry Hexham and Sir John Ogle, 
were appended to William Dillingham’s edition of Sir Francis 
Vere’s Commentaries in 1657. These can be supplemented from 
much contemporary material in the Acts of the Privy Council^ in 
the Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notably 
those on Sir Robert Cecil’s correspondence at Hatfield (vols. 
xi, xii, xiv), and Sir Robert Sidney’s at Penshurst (vols. ii, iii), 
in the earlier Letters and Memorials of State (1746) of Arthur 
Collins, also taken from the Penshurst muniments, and in the 
letters to Cecil from Sir Ralph Winwood at Paris, printed by 
Edmund Sawyer in his Memorials of Affairs of State (1725). 
Particularly interesting are the numerous ‘advices’ sent from 


time to time by one Captain Holcroft and other officers en- 
gaged in the defence, and preserved at Hatfield. Naturally 
many of the documents here described were of a confidential 
nature, although something of the information conveyed may 
have been allowed to leak out from them. The Hatfield papers 
include (xi. 293, 354, 583; xiv. 305) no less than five plans of 
Ostend, taken during the siege, but unfortunately none of these 
have been reproduced. It is possible, however, from the 
material available, to get some conception of the lay-out of the 
area, which must of course, in 1601, have been matter of 
general knowledge. Ostend, on the coast of Zeeland, which 
here runs from the south-west to the north-east, was an out- 
lying stronghold of the Dutch States, and only accessible, either 
from their towns farther north or from England, by sea. It 
stood on sandy ground, and was backed by high dunes, from 
which the rather ineffective artillery of the age could annoy it. 
On these the Archduke had set up a ring of small forts, called 
sconces. One of these, on the south-west, lay behind a small 
river. On the Ostend side of it was a ‘ polder’ of low-lying land , 
reclaimed from the sea. But the most important feature of 
Ostend was the old haven towards the north-east. It was not 
a very good one, especially in rough weather, and was ap- 
proached by a narrow entrance, called the Geule. So long as 
this could be kept open, reinforcements from England could 
be got in, and the task of the besiegers remained difficult. By 
the end of 1601 it had suffered, and Vere began the construc- 
tion of a new haven beyond it. This was risky, as it might let 
water into the inhabited area, which stood further back, but 
still on low ground. Here was an old town, with a church, and 
apparently a new town had grown up towards the west as a 
suburb. There was a good deal of fortification. We read of 
bulwarks. Two of these, a Sandhills and a Poulter, apparently 
named from the ‘polder’, were both in the old town. There 
were also a Helmont and a Peck’s bulwark. There were half- 
moons, bastions, curtains, counterscarps, and ravelins. One 
ravelin was called the porcupine (porkupie, porcpie, porcke- 
pey, porcespy). The Oxford Dictionary defines this as * a machine 
with projecting spikes or teeth’, but here it appears to have 
been something more substantial. 

I do not see how such a locality could be described, even by 
a poet, as ‘a little patch of ground’ or as ‘a plot whereon the 
numbers cannot try the cause’, or as merely a straw to be 



74 the date of *hamlet' 

debated, Hamlet, incidentally, says nothing about the presence 
of sand in the plot. And, of course, it is not true that Ostend 
had ‘in it no profit but the name’. There is abundant contem- 
porary evidence of its value to the Dutch, both as an avenue 
for trade and as a link with their English ally. On the other 
hand, so long as it was unconquered, it remained a thorn in the 
side of the Archduke. Vere himself wrote to the Privy Council 
on 28 June 1601 of the Dutch {Cal. Hatfield MSS. xi. 253), 

They are not a little troubled, the town being to them of such impor- 
tance, as in a manner their whole welfare depends upon the conservation 

And he adds, 

I cannot forbear to utter what is thought here the loss of that place 
would bring with it. First, all the hope of clearing that coast is taken away, 
the enemy’s means to annoy us by sea trebled, he is eased of an infinite 
charge the blocking that place required, and his revenue by the quieting 
of that quarter much increased, and this conclusion is drawn out, that the 
enemy in short time will disjoint this state, without striking an offensive 
blow by land, if they be not more helped by their neighbours than yet 
there is any appearance of. On the other side it may please your Honours 
to understand what is conceived if this succours of her Majesty’s arrive in 
time: that it will be the utter ruin of the enemy if he be obstinate, and 
of Flanders, either by his own forces or ours, what course soever he take. 

So, too, on 10 July 1601, one William Tresham, who wanted 
employment by Cecil, wrote to a friend of Ostend, as ‘a place 
of most importance for the States of Holland to continue and 
possess’, and of the Archduke {Cal. Hatfield MSS. xi. 280), 

Sure, if he become master of the place, he will be much esteemed : so 
contrariwise, if he fail of the enterprise, he will not only lose much 
reputation, but withal will be put to great afterdeal and distress. 

To Cecil himself Captain Richard Wigmore reported of the 
Dutch on 1 1 August 1601 {Cal. Hatfield MSS. xi. 336), 

They will engage themselves far beyond ordinary, rather than yield to 
the loss of Ostend. It undoubtedly carryeth with it matter of greater 
consequence than any other that hath fallen out for a long time in these 
parts, for if the Archduke faileth in this project, he must, in all likelihood, 
seek himself elsewhere than in Flandersj but if Ostend be lost, it is more 
clear than the sun that all the towns in Zealand will be transformed into 
villages, if they be not utterly abandoned. 

From another angle we get the Spanish view of the position, 
summed up in what seems to be an intercepted communication 
of 3 September 1601 {Cal. Hatfield MSS. xi. 380). ‘In short. 


the necessity of winning this town is great, for otherwise the 
estate of these Princes will be desperate/ Sir Ralph Winwood, 
describing an interview on 12 October 1601 with Henri IV 
at Paris, in which he had told him of Elizabeth’s preoccupation 
with the affairs of Ireland, adds that he had said (E. Sawyer, 
Memorials of Affairs of State^ i. 354), 

That which gave her the greatest discontent was, that hereby her 
peculiar desseignes wer somewhat disturbed, and her means and thoughts 
detourned from the assistance of the States; whose necessity she knowes to 
be great, and without the greater providence of God, and succours from 
him, doth presage a great alteration in their fortunes. I then remon- 
strated [? demonstrated] to him (insisting from point to point upon those 
particulars which your Honor hath set down) the deplorable state of 
Ostend, and recommended from her Majestic unto his care the protec- 
tion of that towne; which it might please him to have in so much the 
more particuler recommendation, in that the wellfare of their fortunes 
did depend upon the issue of this siege: which I shewed, both that the 
Archduke should be greatly advanced in reputation by gaining that towne; 
and more in estate, by reducing all Flanders into a peaceable possession; 
and the Hollander’s commerce (which is the Peru of their finances) by the 
loss of that porte, in a manner ruinated, or much impeached. 

And we have a final confirmation from Cecil himself, on 
28 January 1602 {CaL Hatfield MSS. xii. 34). 

But we must not desist. For if we can still engage and waste that army, 
which is the garland of Spain, before that place, he will be at little ease to 
think of other enterprises; it being sufficient reason for us to value that 
port at a high price, seeing he could be contented to purchase it at so dear 
a rate. 

A high price, not the five ducats, at which the Norwegian cap- 
tain told Hamlet he would not farm the little patch of ground, 
he was marching to gain, 

1943 * 


Disintegrating criticism has approached the problem of The 
Tempest by four paths. 

I. There are certain analogies to the play in B/e Schone 
Sidea, which forms part of the Opus Theatricum (i 6 1 8) of Jacob 
Ayrer of Nuremberg (pb. 1 605). Here, as in The Tempest, we 
find a prince and magician, with a familiar spirit, a fair daugh- 
ter, and an enemy’s son, whose sword is held in thrall by the 
magician’s art, who must bear logs for the lady, and who wins 
release through her love. Such a task and its solution form a 
common enough theme of romance and folk-tale, from Theseus 
and Ariadne onwards. The resources of Quellen-forschung have 
been fully equal to tracing it in Renaissance, especially Spanish, 
literature. The details of the logs and the stayed sword pro- 
bably point to some closer community of origin between Sidea 
and The Tempest. It should perhaps be added that the enemy 
of Ayrer’s magician has a councillor Franciscus, and in The 
Tempest a Francisco has a rather shadowy existence, apparently 
as a ‘lord’ of the usurping duke of Milan. The stage-directions 
note his entries at .11. i. i, iii. iii. i, v. i. 58 ; but he only speaks 
three words at iii. iii. 40, and ten lines at ii. i. 113, which very 
probably really belong to Gonzalo. It has been thought that 
Ayrer used a pre-1605 version of The Tempest as a model. But 
obviously other explanations are equally plausible ; a knowledge 
by Shakespeare of the German play, or of a report of it brought 
home by English actors from Germany; a common source, 
dramatic or narrative, now lost. This might be the Celinde und 
Sedea found in Anglo-German play-lists of 1604 and 1613, 
although no name resembling Celinde is in Ayrer’s play. Cer- 
tainly, as we have them. The Tempest and Sidea are distinct 
plays. They have very different local and historical settings. 
Sidea has no storm and no magit island. And there are no 
parallels of phrase, such as would suggest a common archetypal 
text. It is true that in the new Cambridge edition of The Tem- 
pest (192 1) Sir A. Quiller-Couch tells us (p. xlix) ‘that “moun- 
tain” and “silver”, two names of the spirit hounds which Pros- 
pero and Ariel set upon the “foul conspiracy” (iv. i. 256), 
occur in an invocation of Prince Ludolph’s in the German 
play’, and that his colleague, Mr. J. D. Wilson, says more 



cautiously (p. 104) that ‘there is an obscure mention of “silver, 
hill and mountain” in Die Schone Sidea which may refer to 
spirits’. But there is surely some misunderstanding here. The 
phrase does not occur in an invocation of Ludolph’s at all, and 
I cannot find anything obscure or any reference to spirits in it. 
It is in a speech by Sidea’s rival Julia, to whom there is no 
analogue in The Tempest. Julia is describing her reception by 
her prospective father-in-law (not the magician Ludolph, but 
his enemy, Leudegast), and says, ‘Verheist mir Silber Hiigel 
vnd Berg*. It is simple enough. The silver and land were her 
promised dower. 

2. It has been held that the fragment of a mask in iv. i. is 
an interpolation into the play as originally written, and by some 
that it is not Shakespeare’s work, but Beaumont’s or Chap- 
man’s. The motive is supposed to have been a desire to adapt 
the play to the circumstances of the winter season of 1612—13, 
which preceded the wedding of the Princess Elizabeth and 
Frederick the Elector Palatine, on 14 February 1613. No 
doubt The Tempest is recorded to have been given at court on 
some unnamed day during this season, and the appropriateness 
of the hymeneal mask is evident. But we do not know that it 
was not equally appropriate to the earlier performance which is 
also recorded on i November 1 6 1 1 , and which may also have 
celebrated, although we do not know that it did celebrate, some 
courtly wedding. There is only one specific reference in the 
mask itself which can yield a clue (iv. i. 1 14): 

Spring come to you at the farthest 

In the very end of harvest! 

Mr. Dover Wilson tells us that ‘“Spring” here is clearly a 
veiled reference to the “offspring” of the royal marriage (cf. 
“issue”, 1. 105), since nine months from the beginning of 1613 
takes us to “the very end of harvest”.’ I dare say it does, but 
the royal marriage was on 14 February, and even if we accept 
Mr. W. J. Lawrence’s rather arbitrary conjecture {Fortnightly., 
cxiii. 941) that the play was given at the betrothal on 27 De- 
cember, it would hardly be decent, in view of what Prospero 
says about ‘bed-right’, to start the calculation from that day. 
As a matter of fact, the allusion fits the 1 6 1 1 performance well 
enough, since the words ‘at the farthest’ allow a little margin 
over nine months. 

3. Mr. Dover Wilson makes use of points i and 2, although 


he does not commit himself upon, and oddly enough does not 
discuss, the authorship of the mask. In other respects, how- 
ever, he carries the critical analysis a good deal further. He 
disclaims an attempt ‘to frame a hypothetical history of The 
Tempest MS.’. But he finds ‘good reason to suppose that the 
“copy” for the Folio text was author’s manuscript which had 
served as prompt-copy in the theatre’, lays down the general 
principle that ‘prompt-copy in that age might have a long 
history’, and thinks that ‘the condition of the Folio text appears 
to show that The Tempest MS. had seen many changes before 
it reached the printer’s hands’. Becoming more specific, he 
makes the following suggestions: 

(i) ‘When Shakespeare took up The Tempest late in his career 
he had an old manuscript to go upon, possibly an early play of 
his own, which may have been related to the original of Die 
Schbne Sidea' This view is based upon (a) traces of cancelled 
rhymed couplets, and (b) a scrap of doggerel, both of which 
Mr. Wilson regards as signs of early work. 

(ii) ‘The received text has been clearly abridged, and 
abridged in the main by Shakespeare himself’, and in i. ii. 
187-320 (Prospero’s first dialogue with Ariel, containing the 
exposition of Caliban’s prehistory) ‘the abridgement is dis- 
tinctly cruder and more drastic than elsewhere’. The proof of 
this consists of (a) the shortness of the play; (b) broken lines, 
taken as indicating ‘cuts’; (r) incorrect verse-lining, taken as 
indicating marginal alterations; {d) unsystematic mingling of 
verse and prose; (e) incomplete or inconsistent handling of 
minor characters; (/) the immense length of the second scene. 
It requires, perhaps, some ingenuity to turn the length of a 
scene into an argument for abridgement. But Mr. Wilson ex- 
plains that most of the second scene ‘ is taken up with an account 
of events which we may assume provided material for pre- 
wreck scenes in the earlier version’ ; and goes on to point to the 
‘remarkable’ fact that the early scenes of The Tempest contain 
three separate expositions. ‘ The threefold difficulty is tackled 
by Shakespeare with consummate skill ; but the expositions are 
there, and they tell their own tale. At some stage of its evolu- 
tion The Tempest was in all likelihood a loosely constructed 
drama, like A Winter's Tale and Derides' 

(iii) ‘The Masque, which we can with certainty date early 
1613 or Christmas 1612, appears to be an after-thought in- 
serted into Act 4 when the play had already taken final shape 


under Shakespeare’s hand’, and it was perhaps the need to 
make room for this addition, whether carried out by Shake- 
speare or another, which led to the crude abridgement of i. ii. 

If then I understand Mr. Wilson aright, there have been 
two distinct abridgements, not necessarily for the same produc- 
tion; firstly a general abridgement, entailing the replacement 
of pre-wreck scenes by expositions, and leaving the play as a 
whole short, but the second scene immense ; and then a further 
abridgement, to enable the mask-scene (iv. i) to be expanded 
without adding to the total length of the play. I will return 
shortly to an analysis, through several scenes, of Mr. Wilson’s 

4. Mr. H. D. Gray, in ‘ Some Indications that The Tempest 
was Revised’ (1921* Studies in Philology^ xviii. 129), points out 
that Act IV, as it stands, would be empty without the mask, and, 
while accepting this as an insertion, suggests that it replaced 
matter in which the plots of Caliban and Stephano against 
Prospero and of Anthonio and Sebastian against Alonso re- 
ceived greater elaboration. This is conceivable, although I do 
not think that either intrigue is demonstrably incomplete, or 
could have been carried much further against the omnipotence 
of Prospero. No doubt the Anthonio theme is left sketchy and 
rather unmotived, but its dramatic purpose is served in adding 
a touch of black to the character of Anthonio. The Caliban 
plot is of course mere farce, and ends happily enough in the 
‘filthy mantled pool’. It is not, and never could have been, 
serious enough quite to explain Prospero ’s passion at the mask. 
The mask, however, had to be broken off abruptly, in order to 
obviate the necessity of staging the full teams of dancers. The 
masks brought into plays are rarely completed. Mr. Gray 
partly rests his case upon the use of the motive of stealing the 
magician’s books in Li Tre Satiric one of a group of Italian 
scenario which he supposes (1920, ‘The Sources of the Tem- 
pest', in Modern Language Notes, xxxv. 321) to be the origin of 
the play. These scenari were printed by F. Neri, Scenari delle 
Maschere in Arcadia (1913), from the large collection made by 
Basilio Locatelli and now in the Casanatense at Rome. Unfor- 
tunately, this book is now out of print, and so far I have not 
been able to trace a copy in this country. To judge by Mr. 
Gray’s description, a number of episodes, spread over half a 
dozen scenari, do in the aggregate bear such a resemblance to 


the theme of The Tempest as to suggest some kind of connexion. 
But what that connexion was remains obscure. Locatelli’s 
manuscript is datled 1 622, according to Mr. Gray, 1618 accord- 
ing to a reviewer in the Athenaeum (20 March 1915). Ob- 
viously there is no evidence here of priority to The Tempest. 
On the other hand, the scenari might relate to performances of 
earlier date than that of the manuscript. Mr. Gray says that 
‘there is no reason to doubt that Shakespeare could have seen 
them acted in London*. The plausibility of this depends upon 
whether they were acted in London, and surely this is a hazard- 
ous conjecture as regards any particular group of seventeenth- 
century Italian scenari. Visits of Italian actors to this country 
were not very frequent. The only early Jacobean example 
known to me, and unfortunately overlooked in writing Chap- 
ter XIV of The Elizabethan Stage., was in 11610, when Prince 
Henry*s privy purse accounts {S.P. Dorn. Jac. /, Ivii. 87) show 
payments to ‘an Italian comedian’ of ;^5 on 17 March and ^2 
on 13 April. On 9 January Henry gave ^6 to ‘Daniell the 
Italian*. He is not called a comedian, and I cannot trace an 
actor of that name in the Accesi or Fedeli or any other known 
Italian troupe. 

I now turn to the play itself. And first for the stage-direc- 
tions. These are more elaborate than in any other play bf the 
canon, and have sometimes been thought to be the work of a 
Folio editor for the assistance of readers. I agree, however, 
with Mr. Wilson that they may very well be substantially due 
to Shakespeare himself, writing in absence from London, and 
anxious to replace his personal supervision by careful instruc- 
tions on apparel and stage-business to the producer. If so, they 
do not militate against the view that The Tempest was printed 
from prompt-copy. On the other hand, the mere presence of 
author’s directions does not of itself prove this, and I am not 
quite sure what are Mr. Wilson’s reasons for supposing that 
the copy used for the Folio had in fact served as prompt-copy. 
He does not point to anything clearly due to a book-keeper as 
distinct from a playwright. I think, however, that there are in 
fact some faint indications of certain alterations in the interests 
of spectacle., for which Shakespeare was probably not respon- 
sible. I shall come to these in due course. My quotations are 
from the Globe text, except where any purpose is served by 
keeping the orthography or punctuation of the Folio. 


Act I, Scene i (The Wreck Scene) 

This is written in alternating sections of prose and verse, 
Mr. Wilson regards this as evidence of revision, and thinks 
that it was ‘probably a verse-scene in the original unrevised 
play’. To me the alternation appears intentional and dramatic; 
the emotional tone rising and falling with the fits of the storm. 
The more excited passages, including the boatswain’s cries to 
the mariners, are in verse, often rough and broken ; during the 
lulls the boatswain and the courtiers exchange comments and 
abuse in prose. This arrangement has misled the compositor, 
who prints far too much as prose, and incidentally, after the 
Folio fashion, tends to elide syllables which are required by the 
scansion. To some extent this is admitted by Mr. Wilson, who 
recovers seven verse-lines, ‘partly by expanding contractions’. 
I should go farther, and arrange as follows (the brackets indi- 
cate elisions or omissions of the Folio): 

J tempestuous noise of Thunder and Lightning heard: Enter a Ship^-master^ 

and a Boteswaine. 

Master Bote-swaine. 

Boteswaine Heere Master; What cheere? 

Mast. Good: 

Speake to th[e] Mariners: fall too [i]t, yarely, 

Or we run our selues a ground, bestir re, bestir re. 

Enter Mariners. 

Botes. Heigh my hearts, cheerely, cheerely my harts: yare, yare: 

Take in the toppe-sale: Tend to th[e] Masters whistle: 

Blow till thou burst thy winde, if roome enough. 

Enter Alonso^ Sebastiany Anthonioy FerdinandOy Gonzaloy and others. 
Alonso Good Boteswaine haue [a ?] care: where [i]s the Master? 
Play the men. 

Botes. I pray now keepe below. 

Anthonio Where is the Master, Boson? 

Botes. Do you not heare him ? you marre our labour, 

Keepe your Cabines: you do assist the storme. 

Gonzalo Nay, good be patient. 

Botes. When the Sea is: hence, 

What cares these roarers for the name of King? 

To Cabine; silence: trouble us not. 

Gon. Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboord. 

Botes. None that I more loue then my selfe. You are a Counsellor, 

if you can command these Elements to silence, and worke 
the peace of the present, wee will not hand a rope more, 


















vse your authoritie: If you cannot, giue thankes you haue 
liu’d so long, and make your selfe readie in your Cabine for 
the mischance of the houre, if it so hap. 

Cheerely good hearts: out of our way I say. Exit, 

I haue great comfort from this fellow: methinks he hath no 
drowning marke vpon him, his complexion is perfect Gal- 
lowes: stand fast good Fate to his hanging, make the rope 
of his destiny our cable, for our owne doth little aduantage: 
If he be not borne to bee hang’d, our case is miserable. 


Enter Boteswaine, 

Downe with the top-Mast: yare, lower, lower. 

Bring her to Try with Maine-course. 

A plague 

A cry within. Enter Sebastian^ Anthonio and Gonzalo. 
vpon this howling: 

They are lowder then the weather, or our office: 

Yet againe? What do you heere? Shal we giue ore and 
drowne, haue you a minde to sinke? 

A poxe o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous incharitable 

Worke you then. 

Hang cur, hang, you whoreson insolent Noyse-maker, we are 
lesse afraid to be drownde, then thou art. 

rie warrant him for drowning, though the Ship were no 
stronger then a Nutt-shell, and as leaky as an vnstanched 

Lay her a hold, a hold, set her two courses 

Off to Sea againe, lay her off. 

Enter Mariners wet. 

All lost, to prayers, to prayers, all lost. 

What must our mouths be cold ? 

The King, and Prince, at prayers, let’s assist them. 

For our case is as theirs. 

I’am out of patience. 

We are meerly cheated of our hues by drunkards, 

This wide-chopt-rascall, would thou mightst lye drowning 
The washing of ten Tides. 

Hee’l be hang’d yet. 

Though euery drop of water sweare against it. 

And gape at widst to glut him. A confused noyse within, 

Mercy on vs 

We split, we split. Farewell my wife, and children. 
Farewell brother: we split, we split, we split. 



Let’s all sinke wi[’] th[e] King. 

Let’s take leaue of him. Exit. 
Now would I giue a thousand furlongs of Sea, for an Acre of 
barren ground; Long heath, Browne firrs, any thing; the 
wills aboue be done, but I would faine dye a dry death. 


Of the thirty-four lines here treated as verse, only six are so 
treated by the Folio and twenty-two by Mr. Wilson. I must 
add that the verse does not read to me at all like early work of 

Act I, Scene ii 

I - 1 86 {Prospero and Miranda: the First Exposition). 

Only two passages require comment. 

(a) Prospero tells Miranda that she knows no more than that 
he is Prospero and her father. She says (21): 

More to know 

Did never meddle with my thoughts, 
but in her very next speech (33) 

Y ou have often 

Begun to tell me what I am, but stopp’d. 

And left me to a bootless inquisition. 

Concluding, ‘Stay: not yet.’ 

This is one of those small inconsistencies of dialogue which are 
frequent in Shakespeare, pass easily on the stage, and must not 
be pressed as evidence for revision. 

(b) 156-60: 

Pros. which raised in me 

An undergoing stomach, to bear up 
Against what should ensue. 

Mir. How came we ashore? 

Pros. By providence divine. 

Some food, we had, and some fresh water, that 
A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo . . . did give us . . . 

Mr. Wilson comments: ‘The isolated half-line and the comma 
suggest a “cut” here. Prospero never answers Miranda’s 
question.’ But he does. They came ashore, because Provi- 
dence, acting through Gonzalo, had supplied them with food 
and water. As for the half-line, it is common enough for a half- 
line speech, breaking into a longer speech, to do double duty 
as a member of two successive metrical lines. 





187—320 {Prospero and Ariel: the Second Exposition). 

Mr. Wilson finds ‘bibliographical disturbance’, from which 
he infers ‘cuts’ and insertions, concentrated in this section of 
the scene. 

(<?) There are five broken lines: 

(188) Approach, my Ariel, come. Enter Ariel. 

(316) Come, thou tortoise! when? 

Enter Ariel like a water nymph. 
Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself 
(320) Upon thy wicked dam, come forth 1 Enter Caliban. 

Two (188, 320) are speech-endings, at the other (316) the 
speaker turns to a new addressee; and in all these cases entries 
fill the pauses. 

Pros. Hast thou, spirit, 

Perform’d to point the tempest that I bade thee? 

(195) Ariel. To every article. 

I boarded the king’s ship, now on the beak . . . 

This is rather abrupt, but Ariel may take pause to think before 
he begins his story. Little, if anything, can be missing, since 
the twelve lines of Ariel’s speech fully answer Prospero’s ques- 

Thou dost, and think’st it much to tread the ooze 
(253) Of *1^® salt deep. 

To run upon the sharp wind of the north. 

To do me business in the veins o’ th’ earth 
When it is baked with frost. 

This is certainly abrupt. Mr. Wilson calls it a ‘glaring cut’. 
Dr. Greg {M.L.R. xvii. 178) points out that the speech runs 
too smoothly for a mere cut, and thinks that there may have 
been a more substantial alteration, from a passage containing a 

Think’st much to tread the ooze of the salt deep. 

But again there cannot be much missing: the dialogue as a 
whole is consistent and adequate. 

As a matter of fact, there is a sixth broken line, which Mr. 
Wilson does not note: 

they all have met again, 

And are upon the Mediterranean flote, 

(235) Bound sadly home for Naples, 

Supposing that they saw the King’s ship wracked, 

And his great person perish. 


The completeness of the grammatical structure makes any sub- 
stantial cut unlikely. 

{b) The lineation of the Folio, as throughout the play, is 
good, but there is one mis-division (309-10), where 
Mir. ’Tis a villain, sir, I do not love to look on. — 
contains the end of one line and the beginning of the next. I 
think the Folio has a tendency to merge consecutive half-lines, 
for the saving of space. 

(f) Mr. Wilson finds the account of Sycorax in Argier (260- 
7) obscure, and thinks that a fuller narrative has been cut. 
Certainly we are left in doubt as to whether the witch was born 
in Argier and why her life was spared. I doubt whether there 
is anything in this but the awkwardness due to the attempt 
(noticeable also in 1-186) to break the exposition by question 
and answer. 

(d) Mr. Wilson thinks that the account of Caliban (281-6), 
which breaks into the story of Ariel’s imprisonment and release, 
is ‘an addition, a piece of patchwork, designed to compensate 
for a rent elsewhere in this section*. Dr. Greg apparently 
agrees. Here also I find nothing but rather clumsy exposition. 

Both Mr. Wilson and Dr. Greg also find ‘botchery’ in the 
following, where ‘correct lining and scansion are impossible, 
and the repetition of the prefix Pro. points to a join in the MS. 

(298) Pro. Doe so: and after two dales 
I will discharge thee. 

Jr. That’s my noble Master: 

What shall I doe? say what? what shall I doe? 

Pro. Goe make thy selfe like a Nymph o’ th’ Sea, 

Be subject to no sight but thine, and mine: inuisible 
To euery eye-ball else: goe take this shape 
And hither come in’t: goe: hence 

With diligence. Exit. 

Pro. Awake, deere hart awake, thou hast slept well. 


I am inclined to agree that there has been an insertion, not as 
part of a recast of the scene, but at the hands of the book- 
keeper, to lead up to an elaboration of the spectacular element 
in the play by the momentary and dramatically purposeless 
apparition of Ariel 'like a water nymph'' at 1 . 316 iv. supra). If 
so, of course the broken line (3 1 6) may after all be part of the 


321-74 {Prospero and Caliban). 

(a) Mr. Wilson finds three broken lines ; 

A south-west blow on ye, 

(324) And blister you all o’er. 

A broken line at the end of a speech in a late play is common 
enough, and no proof of a cut. 

Pros. thou didst seek to violate 

(348) The honour of my child. 

Cal. O ho, O ho ! would’t had been done. 

Here we have, not two broken lines, but one complete one. 
Caliban’s laugh is extra-metrical. 

(b) The Folio (360-2) reads: 

therefore wast thou 

Deseruedly confin’d into this Rocke, who hadst 
Deseru’d more then a prison. 

Mr. Wilson redivides: 

Deservedly confined into this rock. 

Who hadst deserved more than a prison. 

And he comments, ‘ The rough verse, the broken line and the 
echo “deservedly . . . deserved” all suggest hasty revision.’ 
I do not know that his four and a half foot line is any less 
‘rough’ than the six footer. If I were given to emendation, I 
think I should assume that ‘deseru’d’ had caught the composi- 
tor’s eye twice, and let it run, still with a broken speech ending : 
Confin’d into this rock, who hadst deserved 
More than a prison. 

In any case, the passage looks to me like a misprint, rather than 
a revision. 

376—501 {Prospero, Ferdinand.^ and Miranda). 

Mr. Wilson finds ‘no bibliographical peculiarities’; neither 
do I, except a final broken line (501). 

Act II, Scene i 

I- 1 90 (TAtf Third Exposition: Gonzalo's Philosophy). 

Prose and verse are a good deal mixed, and a verse line or 
two may be embedded in prose passages. Mr. Wilson takes 
the prose for a revision ; but such a piecemeal revision wants as 
much explanation as an original mixture. Certainly the verse, 
which on the whole is used for the more exalted passages, is not 
early work. 


1 9 1-327 {Plot against Alonso'). 

{a) Mr. Wilson does not note two broken lines, one (2 1 8) a 
speech-ending, the other (275) an exclamation. 

(^) There are three cases of misdivided lines (192-3, 195-8, 
244-5), sporadic misdivisions are very poor evidence of 
revision, and Mr. Wilson’s attempt at a reconstruction of an 
original form for 192—8 suggests that, if there was any revision, 
it was quite trivial. In 244-5 ^ space-saving, analogous 

to that of I. ii. 309-10. 

(r) In 297-305 Ariel enters and sings a song in Gonzalo’s 
ear. This seems inconsistent with the conversation after the 
waking of Alonso and Gonzalo (in itself intelligible enough, 
pace Mr. Wilson), in which Gonzalo speaks of a ‘humming’ 
and the disturbed murderers of a ‘bellowing’ or ‘roare’. Pos- 
sibly the song, like i. ii. 298—305, may be a theatrical sophisti- 

Act II, Scene ii {Caliban and Mariners') 

The mariners speak prose ; Caliban mainly, but not entirely, 
verse. The Folio compositor, as in i. i, is confused, prints some 
of Caliban’s lines as prose, and contrariwise has some irregular 
prose lines with initial capitals. Mr. Wilson thinks that this is 
the result of revision, but original differentiation, to emphasize 
the abnormality of Caliban, is just as plausible as differentiated 

Act III, Scene i {Ferdinand and Miranda) 

Mr. Wilson (p. 84) finds ‘no marks of revision’, but (p. 79) 
notes certain traces of rhymed couplets as indicating Shake- 
speare’s use of ‘an old manuscript, possibly an early play of 
his own’. These are: 

(24) I’ll bear your logs the while: pray give me that; 

I’ll carry it to the pile. 

(29) I should do it 

With much more ease: for my good will is to it. 

Mere carelessness, I think. 

Act III, Scene ii {Caliban and Mariners) 

The arrangement is similar to that of ii. ii, except that occa- 
sionally Stephano, as well as Caliban, speaks verse. Trinculo 
has three lines, probably of doggerel (86-9), although treated 


by the Globe as prose, which Mr. Wilson thinks ‘fossil from 
the earlier version*. 

Act III, Scene hi 

Mr. Wilson finds ‘marks of revision, slight*. These appear 
to be : 

(a) Four broken lines, of which one (19) is a short exclama- 
tory speech, and three (52, 82, 93) are speech-endings, the first 
two being cut short by thunder. 

(l>) One misdivision, due, I think, like i. ii. 309—10, to the 
merging of what would normally appear as two half-lines in the 

Ant. Doe not for one repulse forgoe the purpose 
(13) That you resolu’d t’efFect. 

Seb. The next aduantage will we take throughly. 
Ant. Let it be to night, 

(c) Two buried rhymes, analogous to iii. i. 24. 

(32) Their manners are more gentle-kind, than of 

Our human generation you shall find 
Many, nay, almost any. 

(50) Although my last: no matter, since I feele 

The best is past. 

Act IV, Scene i 

I- 1 93 (The Mask Scene). 

(a) One misdivision, clearly to save space. 

(166) Pro. Spirit: We must prepare to meet with Caliban. 

(h) Seven broken lines, of which one (43) is an independent 
speech, followed by a change to trochaic me:tre, three (12, 105, 
169) are speech-endings, and three, also speech-endings (59, 
127, 138), are cut short by appearances of the mask. Mr. 
Wilson does not note 12 and 43, and accepts the others as due 
to ‘the exigencies of the masque-verse*. 

What then is the evidence for the mask being an interpola- 
tion ? 

(i) I have already shown that the obstetric chronology has no 
necessary or obvious relation to the circumstances of 1612-13. 

(ii) Mr. Wilson thinks that an earlier version of the play only 
had the dances of Reapers and Nymphs (138), and that the 
speeches and song of Iris, Ceres, and Juno (60-138), together 
with the preliminary talk of Prospero with Ariel and Ferdinand 


(48-59), have been added. He argues that all this intermediate 
matter is inconsistent with Prospero’s ‘incite them to quick 
motion’ (39) and ‘Ay: with a twink’ (43), and with Ariel’s 
words (46-7) : 

Each one, tripping on his toe. 

Will be here with mop and mow. — 

‘ which announce the immediate advent of dancers ’ . This seems 
to me fantastic literalism, even if it can be assumed that Iris and 
Ceres and Juno did not themselves come m with dancing 
measures. Mr. Wilson goes on to explain the introduction of 
the intermediate matter, with its second and rather superfluous 
moral warning to Ferdinand, as due to the fact that Ariel ‘pre- 
sented Ceres’ (167), and therefore the actor of Ariel needed 
time to change his costume. As to this Dr. Greg points out 
that, whatever Ariel says, the parts were not necessarily doubled 
by the human actors; to which I may add, that ‘presented’ 
need mean no more than that Ariel stage-managed the show. I 
do not therefore see any evidence of patching before the mask. 
According to the usual practice in such entertainments, speak- 
ing personages introduce the dancers. And, although I agree 
that the second sermon to Ferdinand is clumsy, the rest of the 
preliminary matter fits well enough. Ariel is told to get ready 
quickly, and then told (49) to delay the actual entry until 
Prospero gives the word; which in fact he does at 57. 

(iii) Is there, then, any more convincing proof of patching 
after the mask Again Mr. Wilson applies his wardrobe argu- 
ment. Ariel must change his dress again, and so Prospero, 
although he has stopped the mask in order to be getting quickly 
to grips with the dangerous Caliban conspiracy, has to delay 
for thirteen lines of ‘irrelevant philosophical rhapsody’ about 
the ‘insubstantial pageant’ of life. Mr. Wilson suggests that 
in the original version Prospero’s (158) ‘Sir, I am vexed’ was 
a direct reply to Ferdinand’s 

(143) This is strange: your fether’s in some passion 

That works him strongly. 

This, however, would not give a complete line at the juncture, 
and Dr. Greg reconstructs the dialogue as follows: 

Ferd. Y ou do look, my lord, in a moved sort 
As if you were dismayed. 

Pros. Sir, I am vexed. 

My own conviction is that these critics take Prospero’s 


‘passion’ and the danger of the Caliban conspiracy much more 
seriously than Prospero did, that the mask was stopped because 
there had been enough of it for the purposes of a play, and that 
there has been no patching. If there has, Shakespeare’s un- 
deniable authorship of the ‘insubstantial pageant’ passage 
makes the conclusion that he was the patcher inevitable. 

Interpolation, if it could be shown, would however strengthen 
the hands of those who doubt the Shakespearean workmanship 
of the mask itself; from the old Cambridge editors with their 
unspecific reference to ‘the writer who composed the masque’ 
to Dr. Greg, who says that it is in ‘ a very distinctive style, quite 
different from Shakespeare’s’. Fleay ascribed it to Beaumont, 
in whose wedding mask of 1613 Iris and the Naiades again 
appear. In The Tempest t\\e, Naiades have ‘sedged crowns’ and 
Ceres has ‘banks with pioned and twilled brims’. In the wed- 
ding mask were ‘four delicate fountains, running with water 
and bordered with sedges and water-flowers’. This is extra- 
ordinarily thin. Iris, the messenger of the Gods, and the 
Naiades show no recondite imagination in a mask-writer. They 
might well serve twice in a season ; it is less probable that the 
same writer would use them twice in the same season. Nor is it 
odd that two masks with nuptial themes should both allude to 
‘blessing and increase’. Mr. J. M. Robertson {Shakespeare 
and Chapman^ 210; Times Literary Supplement^ 31 March 
1921) offers as alternatives Heywood, who is not likely to have 
written for the King’s men, and Chapman, with a leaning 
towards Chapman, indicated by the bad rhyming, by word- 
clues, and by the duplication of Juno’s mention of ‘honour’ 
and ‘riches’ in Chapman’s own wedding mask, in which 
‘Honour’ and ‘Plutus (or Riches)’ are in fact characters. It is 
suggested that Chapman had already seen Beaumont’s mask 
and took from this some details of imagery; also that he had 
already seen The Tempest, of which there are some echoes in 
his wedding mask, and took from ii. i. 163 the word ‘foison’ 
for the interpolated mask. It is, however, to the word-clues that 
Mr. Robertson devotes most attention. He finds in The Tem- 
pest mask eighteen words (vetches, turfy, stover, pioned, 
twilled, brims, betrims, broom-groves, lorn, marge, bosky, un- 
shrubb’d, bed-right, windring, sedged, sicklemen, furrow, rye- 
straw) not used elsewhere by Shakespeare, and eight words or 
phrases (donation, crisp, leas, scandal’d, many colour’d mes- 
senger, scarcity, sunburnt, dusky), which Shakespeare only 


uses two or three times, sometimes in plays in which Mr. 
Robertson thinks that Chapman or another had a hand. Of the 
first group he traces three (brims, bed-rites, furrow) and of the 
second four (leas, scandal’d, sunburnt, dusky), together with, 
not ‘ many-colour ’d’, but ‘thousand-colour’d’, as an epithet of 
Iris, in Chapman. ‘This’, he says, ‘does not amount to much.’ 
It certainly does not, in view of the commonplace character of 
many of the words and the frequency of once-used words in all 
Shakespeare’s plays. It is therefore a little surprising to find 
Mr. Robertson reverting to the matter and telling us (T.L.S.) 
that the vocabulary clues to Chapman are ‘rather striking’. 
Such as it is, the case must be further discounted by pointing 
out that ‘brim’ occurs, not once, but four times in the plays, 
and that ‘furrow’ as a noun recurs in the compound ‘furrow- 
weeds’. Nor is it helped by pointing out that coupled epithets 
and such forms as ‘turfy’, ‘ bosky’, are very much in Chapman’s 
manner, since they are also very much in Shakespeare’s. And 
it is rather misleading to suggest that ‘spongy April’ recalls 
the ‘Earth, at this spring, spongy and languorsome’ of Chap- 
man’s Amorous Zodiac^ without also noting the ‘spongy south’ 
of Cymbeline iv. ii. 349. Iris rhymes ‘deity’ with ‘society’, and 
Chapman in the wedding mask with ‘piety’, but in neither case 
is an abnormal pronunciation of ‘deity’ involved; the rhyme is 
only on the last syllable. 

Looking at the matter more broadly, I do not think it pos- 
sible to read the dialogue of the mask side by side with Beau- 
mont’s elegant wedding mask, or Chapman’s extremely cum- 
brous one, and to believe in any common authorship with either 
of them. That is an issue, not of analogies of motive, or of word- 
clues, but of stylistic impression, of which each critic must be 
the judge for himself. Nor do I see any reason to doubt that 
this dialogue is Shakespeare’s. Certainly its manner is differen- 
tiated from that of the play itself; it had to be pitched in a dif- 
ferent key, just as the play in Hamlet is pitched in a different 
key from that of Hamlet itself. But why should we look for 
another than Shakespeare in the ‘ banks with pioned and twilled 
brims’, in the ‘spongy April’ and the ‘cold nymphs’, in the 
‘rich scarf to my proud earth’, in ‘Mars’ hot minion’, and the 
‘blind boy’s scandal’d company’; above all, in the turn of 

thy broom-groves, 

Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves. 

Being lass-lorn? 


About the song of Juno and Ceres, with its imperfect rhymes 
and its emptiness of content, I feel more doubtful; and if any 
one argues that this, taken by itself, may have been inserted by 
the book-keeper, to whom I have already allowed a few lines in 
I. ii. and ii. i, I am not inclined to resist him. Whether the 
book-keeper thought it worth while to call upon Chapman or 
any one else for assistance, I do not know. 

194-267 {Caliban and Mariners). 

The mixture of prose and verse is analogous to that in ii. ii. 
and in. ii. 

There are five broken lines (207, 219, 234, 250, 267), all 

Act V, Scene i (Reconciliation) 

(a) Mr. Wilson notes ten broken lines, ‘some of which may 
have arisen from revision*. Of these eight (57, 87, loi, 103, 
171, 173, 263, 281) are speech-endings, followed in one case 
(57) i^usic, in another (87) by a song, and in a third (171) 
by a discovery; one (299) is an extra-metrical interruption. 

The tenth is more abrupt, but explicable by a change of 

A solemn air and the best comforter 
To an unsettled fancy cure thy brains. 

Now useless boil within thy skull: there stand, 

(61) For you are spell-stopped. 

Holy Gonzalo, honourable man. 

An eleventh, not noted by Mr. Wilson, is filled by a pause of 

Pros. for I 

(148) Have lost my daughter. 

Alonso A daughter? 

A twelfth (278), also not noted, is another extra-metrical inter- 

{R) There is one misdivision, for which any reason, other 
than a misprint, is hard to find. 

(gS) Why, that’s my dainty Ariel: I shall miss 

Thee, but yet thou shalt have freedom: so, so, so. 

(c) Mr. Wilson says, ‘The extra-metrical and detached 
“No** given to Prospero at 1 . 130 is curious and can best be 
explained by a “cut” in the text, which deprives us of the rest 
of the retort.* It is not, however, unmetrical. 



Pro. I will tell | no tales. | 

Seh. The devil | speaks in | him. 

Pro. No! 

{d) Prospero says (248): 

at pickt leisure 

(Which shall be shortly single) I’le resolue you, 

(Which to you shall seem probable) of euery 
These happen’d accidents. 

It is a characteristic involution in Shakespeare’s latest manner, 
but hardly justifies Mr. Wilson’s inference that ‘the extreme 
awkwardness suggests adaptation’. 

Finally, Mr. Wilson notes that ‘this is the only occasion, 
apparently, in the whole canon where speakers who have conT 
eluded one scene appear again at the opening of the next. It 
is practically certain that some intervening scene has been 
deleted between iv. i. and v. i.’ Dr. Greg has already called 
attention to the analogy of M.N.D. iii-iv, where Hermia and 
Helena ‘sleepe all the Act’. In any case I doubt whether 
Shakespeare had any conscious practice in the matter. 


The ‘problem’, if there is a ‘problem’, of TAe Tempest re- 
solves itself into three issues. 

1 . Is there any reason for attributing the verse of the mask 
to another hand than Shakespeare’s } 

2. Is there sufficient evidence, ‘bibliographical’ or literary, 
for inferring abridgement, either to make room for the mask or 
for any other purpose 

3. Is there any such evidence for one or more recasts of the 
play as a whole ? 

To all three questions I give substantially negative answers. 
As to the first I have nothing to add to my notes on iv. i. 
Abridgement is claimed on five grounds: (a) the shortness of 
the play, (l>) mute or semi-mute personages, (c) broken lines, 
(d) misdivision of lines, (e) incoherencies and obscurities. 
la) Shortness. The play is short, and no doubt a short text is 
sometimes, as probably in Macbeth, due to abridgement. Some 
might argue that The Tempest is short because it was written 
for a court performance, but I have no reason for supposing that 
court performances were normally shorter than public perfor- 
mances. I would suggest, however, that in this case the length 
of the actual performance was sensibly increased by the songs 

94 the integrity of ‘the tempest’ 

and dumb-show episodes, of which several (iii. iii. 20, 53, 83; 
IV. i. 138, 193, 256; V. i. 57) give opportunity for elaborate 

(F) Mutes and Semi-mutes. I have referred above to the sketchy 
treatment of Francisco, who however is required to make up 
an attendant for each of the principal nobles; Alonso, who has 
Gonzalo; Sebastian, who has Adrian, and Anthonio. Mr. 
Wilson also lays stress upon the fact that no more is heard in 
the play of a ‘brave son’ of Anthonio, whom Ferdinand (i. ii. 
438) saw in the wreck, and thinks him a survival from an earlier 
version. But I doubt whether such a dropped thread is beyond 
Shakespeare’s carelessness. 

(f) Broken Lines. There are forty in all. Of these twenty-eight 
are speech-endings, followed in fourteen cases by an entry, or 
discovery, or episode of mask or music, or peal of thunder, or 
by a transition to prose or trochaics. This is a normal pheno- 
menon of Shakespeare’s later work, in which the tendency to 
depart from the tyranny of the line-unit leads to medial speech- 
endings, with the incidental result that an interruption some- 
times leaves these in suspense. Six are self-contained exclama- 
tions or interjections, one (i. ii. 1 59) being of the ‘amphibious’ 
type which serves as end to one full line and beginning to 
another. These also are normal. One (v. i. 148) is divided 
between two speakers, and filled out by a pause of astonish- 
ment. There remain five which come in mid-speech. Two 
(i. ii. 316; V. i. 61) are explained by a change of addressee, or 
alternatively in the first case by a book-keeper’s insertion ; one 
(i. ii. 195) by a pause for consideration. Only two (i. ii. 235, 
253) suggest to me possible cuts, and these probably, from the 
context, only of small extent. The position is very different 
from that in Macbeth., with its numerous, abrupt, mid-speech, 
broken lines, which are, I think, evidence of substantial 

'{d) Misdivisions. Blank verse lines are often wrongly divided, 
both by Quarto and Folio printers, and the confusion some- 
times extends over a series of successive lines. In these cases 
there is plausibility in Mr. Wilson’s explanation that a com- 
positor might be misled by a blank verse insertion, written con- 
tinuously in a margin of manuscript too narrow to allow each 
line to be set out at full length. Of course, a marginal insertion 
is not necessarily evidence of abridgement, still less of whole- 
sale recast. It may be evidence of expansion. On the other 


hand, its purpose may be to join the edges of a cut. The mis- 
divisions in The Tempest, however, are not, except in one case, 
of the serial type, and they are really very few in number, 
compared with those in several other Folio texts. Mr. Wilson 
(p. 79) says that they ‘abound’, but, apart from the confusion 
between prose and verse in certain scenes, he only notes nine 
examples. Of these four (i. ii. 309;' ii. i. 244; iii. iii. 13; iv. i. 
166) are merely space saving, generally by setting a speech 
which ends one metrical line and begins another as one print- 
line instead of two. One (i. ii. 361) is, I think, the sequel of a 
misprint. One (v. i. 95) is perhaps itself a misprint. Two, one 
of which is serial (ii. i. 192, 195-8), may result from some 
trivial alteration; and one, involving two separate lines (i. ii. 
301, 304), is, I think, possibly part of an insertion by the 
book-keeper. There is nothing here to support a theory of 
systematic abridgement. 

(e) Incoherencies and Obscurities. I have dealt with, and dis- 
missed as trivial, in view of Shakespeare’s occasional careless- 
ness, the inconsistent replies of Miranda and the rambling pre- 
history of Sycorax and Caliban, both in i. ii. Nor can I attach 
much importance, pending a personal study of the Locatelli 
scenari, to the converging attempts of Mr. Gray and Mr. Wil- 
son to show that some episode or episodes may have dropped 
out from IV. On the other hand, I think that the desire of the 
producer to bring in Ariel as a nymph of the sea in i. ii. and to 
give him a song in 11. i. may have led the book-keeper to intro- 
duce a slight confusion into each of these scenes. 

So much for abridgement. I come now to the question of 
recasts. And here I find it a little difficult to follow Mr. Wil- 
son’s theory, although I must remember that he does not pro- 
fess to give a complete account of the fortunes of The Tempest 
copy. At one place (p. 79) he writes as if he regarded the mix- 
ture of prose and verse in certain scenes, and also the length 
of I. ii, as being further evidence of abridgement. I do not see 
how they can be that; and in fact, when he comes to deal with 
the ‘mixed’ scenes in detail, his suggestion is clearly that these 
were verse-scenes ‘in the original unrevised play’ and that ‘the 
prose or part-prose sections probably represent pages of the 
MS. which have undergone revision’. I understand him to 
trace two distinct recasts. The first was when ‘late in his 
career’ Shakespeare took up ‘an old manuscript, possibly an 
early play of his own ’, which was at any rate partly in rhyme, 


and revised it by getting rid of the rhyme and turning some 
verse passages into prose. This still left The Tempest ‘a loosely 
constructed drama, like A Winter's Tale and Pericles' y in which 
Prospero’s deposition, the birth of Caliban, and Claribel’s 
voyage to Africa furnished material for pre-wreck scenes. I am 
assuming that Mr. Wilson would not cite A Winter's Tale and 
Pericles as analogies for the form of an early play by Shake- 
speare, and, if so, it must have been at a second recast that he 
supposes the pre-wreck scenes to have been omitted and re- 
placed by the three expositions. I am not quite clear whether 
any part of the general abridgement is supposed to have taken 
place at this stage, or whether that formed a third stage. Per- 
haps Mr. Wilson is not quite clear either. In any case, the 
mask was introduced ‘when the play had already taken final 
shape under Shakespeare’s hand’ ; and that apparently involved 
further abridgement. I am, however, now only concerned 
with the two general recasts. For the first the evidence is : 

{a) The relation of the play to Die Schone Sidea. Some com- 
mon source is, I think, probable; but it was not necessarily a 
play, and if a play, it was not necessarily in a relation of ‘con- 
tinuous copy’ to The Tempest. 

Qi) The ‘traces of rhymed couplets’. I have noted above the 
four indicated by Mr. Wilson in iii. i. and iii. iii. He says that 
others occur ‘elsewhere’. Perhaps he has in mind 

I. ii. 304 And hither come in’t: go: hence 
With diligence. 

But this is probably the book-keeper. There is also 

IV. i. 123 So rare a wonder’d father and a wise 
Makes this place Paradise. 

Here some copies of the Folio read ‘wife’, which Mr. Wilson 
may be right in regarding as an emendation. But I suppose 
that in Mr. Wilson’s view the lines would have been an inser- 
tion with the mask. There may be others. But such accidental 
rhymes, whether final or internal, seem to me due to Shake- 
speare’s carelessness or whim, and no evidence of revision. 

(c) Three lines of doggerel (iii. ii. 86-8) in the mouth of 
Trinculo are, sureljr, too slight a basis for any argument, al- 
though I do not think there is any other doggerel in the plays 
later than Lear^ i. v. 55-6. 

(d) The ‘mixed’ passages. If Mr. Wilson’s theory that these 
are due to partial revision of an ‘early’ play were correct, I 


should expect to find the verse sections in ‘early’ verse, and 
possibly in rhymed verse. But it is not so. The verse is all of 
a piece with that in the rest of the play, and distinctly late in 
manner, and if the verse, as well as the prose, belongs to the 
revision, then the reason for the differentiation is still to seek. 
To me it presents no great difficulty. There are other examples 
in which Shakespeare seems to have thought a variation of 
medium appropriate to transitions between more and less 
exalted subject-matter within the same scenes. 

There is nothing to bear out this supposed second recast 
except the length of i. ii. and the three expositions, here and in 
II. i. Most of the second scene ‘is taken up with an account of 
events which we may assume provided material for pre-wreck 
scenes in the earlier version’. It is indeed an assumption. But 
‘the expositions are there, and they tell their own tale’. I think 
they do. They tell that Shakespeare, having a great deal of 
pre-history to narrate, found it less tedious to do it at thrice 
than at once. But I do not see how they tell Mr. Wilson’s. 
Shakespeare, at the end of his career, took it into his head to 
vary the loose construction of such plays as A Winter's Tale 
and Pericles by a final experiment on the lines of temporal 
unity. He reverted to the method of preliminary exposition 
which he had employed long ago for a similar theme in the 
Comedy of Errors. Why should we ‘assume’ that he put him- 
self to the superfluous trouble of first writing The Tempest as a 
loose romance, and then converting it to unity.? The break 
with his immediate past would have been no less deliberate. 





In order to obtain a full understanding of any distinct mode of 
artistic expression, it is necessary to track it to its source, and 
to study the conditions under which its original utterances 
were shaped and its character and conventions took their ever- 
lasting bent. Thus romance first becomes intelligible when you 
have learnt the life-history of the minstrel folk who gave it 
birth; and the refrains and rhythms of lyric yield a new mean- 
ing, as you discern in them the uplifting of choric feet about 
the sacred tree, or the swaying bodies of the oarsmen at the 
rowlock or the women at the loom. Above all is this true in the 
case of forms so elaborate as those of drama, whose very exis- 
tence depends upon the substitution of costly co-operation for 
the freedom of the single-handed entertainer, and whose tradi- 
tions early attain to a stability based upon the conservatism of 
a syndicate and the permanence of an architectural structure. 
If then one desires to differentiate the drama of the Renaissance 
from the drama of the Middle Ages on the one side, or the 
drama of the Restoration on the other, it is almost inevitable to 
begin by determining the nature of the stage upon which the 
Renaissance plays were produced, and estimating the reaction 
which its dimensions and arrangement must have had upon the 
putting-together and the presentation of these. 

Such an investigation is congenial enough to a generation 
whose historic sense has been rendered acute by contact with 
the pregnant conceptions of evolutionary science and philoso- 
phy. More than one attempt has been made in recent years to 
reconstruct a Shakespearean stage and to remodel histrionic 
methods, perverted by the misunderstandings of two centuries, 
in harmony therewith. As in all matters concerning Shake- 
speare, German enterprise has taken a foremost and honourable 
share in this endeavour. As far back as 1840 Karl Immermann 
produced Twelfth Night upon a stage designed by himself for 
the purpose at Diisseldorf. Immermann’s experiment was an 
isolated one, and he did not as a matter of fact arrive at any- 
thing very closely approaching what we can imagine a Shake- 
spearean stage to have been. It was not until 1888 that the 
discovery by Dr. Karl Theodor Gaedertz. of a drawing of the 
interior of the Swan theatre, of which more will be said below, 



Stimulated a really widespread interest in the matter. The 
famous Munich Shakespeare-Biihne, organized by Karl von, 
Perfall and Jdcza Savits, was opened with a performance of 
King Lear on i June 1889, and yielded a long series of Shake- 
spearean and other plays up to 1905. The example of Munich 
was followed more spasmodically at Breslau and Prague; and 
at Paris, in a production of Measure for Measure at the ThdStre 
de rCEuvre in 1898. The English Elizabethan Stage Society, 
under the direction of Mr. William Poel, initiated its Shake- 
speare stage with a performance of Measure for Measure in 
1893, and endured until 1905. In America the Department of 
English of Harvard University built an Elizabethan stage for 
a revival of Ben Jonson’s Eficcene in 1895, and rebuilt it in 
accordance with the latest research for Mr. Forbes-Robertson 
to play Hamlet upon in 1904. It must of course be borne in 
mind that these ventures, with the possible exception of the 
Harvard one, were conceived in the interests of histrionic re- 
form rather than in those of pure archaeology. The two objects 
are related, but ought not to be confused. The representation 
of Shakespeare’s plays on the modern theatre has no doubt 
come to disaster, partly owing to the substitution after the 
Restoration of a picture-stage for a platform-stage, and partly 
owing to the bad taste of nineteenth-century stage-managers — 
notably Sir Henry Irving and Mr. Beerbohm Tree — ^who have 
persisted in elaborating scenic effect along lines of cost rather 
than of beauty, with results to the structure and movement of 
the plays no less ruinous than the havoc wrought by eighteenth- 
century adapters upon their texts. Obviously such reforms are 
required as will enable the dialogue of a play to be given in its 
entirety and in the order in which it was written ; will prevent 
breaches of continuity in the progress of each act; and will 
restore declamation to its proper place in the equipment of the 
mime. I have seen nothing more ridiculous than a recent re- 
vival of Richard II, in which the performer of John of Gaunt, 
instead of coming forward to the footlights and spouting the 
patriotic harangue at the beginning of the second act, spoke it 
in the arms of his attendants, and with realistic representations 
of the feeble gestures, the halting utterance, and the broken 
accents of a dying man. Probably the actors themselves are 
more to blame than even the carpenters and the scene-shifters; 
but clearly if any kind of scenic illusion lends to the mutilation 
either of the words or of the spirit of a play as Shakespeare 


wrote it, that particular kind of scenic illusion stands self- 
condemned. On the other hand, it seems to me a mere pedantry 
to maintain that no scenic illusion can possibly be appropriate 
in the performance of Shakespeare’s plays upon a modern stage, 
which was not available in the sixteenth century. The Eliza- 
bethan companies were limited by their poverty, by their 
mobility, and by the imperfect development of mechanical in- 
vention. It is difficult, in view of Shakespeare’s apologies in 
the choruses to Henry V for his ‘wooden O’ and its ‘unworthy 
scaffold’, and for the 

Four or five most vile and ragged foils. 

Right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous, 

that must needs body forth the great name of Agincourt, to 
feel that he would not have gladly welcomed more spacious and 
decorative opportunities. And have not his lavish passages of 
description, such as that of Cleopatra’s barge upon the Cydnus, 
again and again the effect of verbal scene-painting, making its 
appeal to the imagination through the ear in default of the eye ? 
Probably the scenic reformer’s best course is, while preserving 
the essentials of the Shakespearean theatre, so far as he can 
discover them, to allow himself to be guided in details by his 
own sense of beauty rather than by a minute respect for archaeo- 
logy. After all, perhaps it comes to much the same thing in the 
long run. Mr. Gordon Craig hangs his stage with curtains, 
because they are more beautiful and mysterious than painted 
scenes, and in so doing he half unconsciously reproduces the 
folded arrases of the Globe. 

To the scholar, on the other hand, the archaeological detail 
is important for its own sake and quite apart from any artistic 
use that may, by reproduction or adaptation, be made of it. 
The disinterested curiosity of his imagination will not be at 
rest until he knows precisely how it was all done at the time; 
and the very difficulty of the inquiry is his lure. This difficulty 
does not arise so much from any paucity of material, as from 
the failure of the material which exists to group itself into a 
coherent picture. The sources of information are, indeed, both 
varied and numerous. In the first rank are the few engravings 
and drawings which show the interior of a playhouse. Of these 
there are only four dating from before the end of the seven- 
teenth century; and one of them, that of the Red Bull in 1672, 
is already too late to throw much light upon the Shakespearean 


period. Two little wood-cuts are found upon the title-pages re- 
spectively of William Alabaster’s Roxana (1632) and Nathaniel 
Richards’s Messallina (1640). These have received less atten- 
tion than the drawing of the Swan already referred to, which is 
a contemporary copy by one Arend van Buchell of Utrecht of 
an original sketch made by his friend John de Witt during a 
visit to London about 1596. Hardly less valuable than such 
representations are the specifications for the building of the 
Fortune in 1 600 and of the Hope in 1613, which are contained 
in builders’ contracts and preserved amongst Alleyn’s papers 
at Dulwich. Much is to be gleaned from the innumerable allu- 
sions in controversial pamphlets concerning the stage, or in 
literary works, such as the chapter on ‘ How a Glallant should 
behave himself in a Playhouse’ in Thomas Dekker’s The Gull’s 
Hornbook (1609) and the prologues to several of Ben Jonson’s 
comedies. Finally there is the vast store of evidence furnished 
by the stage-directions which are found to a greater or less 
extent in nearly all the early printed editions of plays. Some of 
these may have been added for the benefit of the reader in the 
process of preparing a play for press ; but the majority appear to 
be genuine directions inserted by the author or the bookholder 
into acting copies for the guidance of the actors and the tire- 
men ; or, in the case of pirated editions, notes of the action made 
from amongst the audience as it actually took place upon the 
stage. They are full of indications illuminating, if indirect, of 
the properties used, of the doors by which entrances and exits 
were effected, and of the stage-devices of curtains and traverses 
and arrases, of trap-doors and descending thrones, of scenes 
‘within’ and scenes ‘above’, by which the plots were advanced 
and changes of locality secured. It is unfortunate that, when 
the material so gathered comes to be arranged and interrogated, 
the inferences drawn from it prove singularly inconclusive and 
conflicting. It has long been apparent that generalities about 
the Elizabethan stage run a risk of being misleading. The 
methods of presentation were probably more various than can 
be comprehended in a single formula. Fundamental similari- 
ties of principle must have been consistent with considerable 
divergences on minor points, such as the number of the doors 
or the position of the curtains. This is hardly surprising, when 
one reflects on the wide diversity of experience which was avail- 
able for the assistance of the early designers of stages. Doubt- 
less the inn-yards in which the London companies had been 


accustomed to play for over a quarter of a century formed their 
principal models; but in adapting these they could draw upon 
suggestions from many (juarters, from miracle-play platforms 
of every shape and size with their domi and their sedes^ from the 
pageants, movable and stationary, of processions and royal 
entries, from notions of the Roman theatre gathered by scholars 
from Vitruvius and the commentators upon Terence, from the 
makeshifts of guildhall and banqueting-house, and from the 
rings of scaffolding which accommodated the spectators at bear- 
baiting and at bull-baiting. Clearly the way in which plays were 
given at Court, when all the resources of the Revels Office, with 
its carpenters and its painters and its wire-drawers, were at the 
disposal of the company, must have differed much from the 
way in which they were furnished forth from the company’s 
own stock of costumes and properties, before the city appren- 
tices and their lady-loves. Clearly also the arrangements and 
the manners of the so-called ‘private’ houses, such as the Black- 
friars, were not quite those of the great open public stages. And 
it is not always obvious for which type of performance the stage- 
directions of any particular print may have been intended. 
Even the great stages themselves may have been distinguished 
from each other by peculiarities of structure and contrivances 
which it is ,now impossible to recover. So that in the end the 
general inquiry as to the nature of the Shakespearean stage 
reduces itself to the more particular inquiry as to the nature of 
the stage of the Globe; and one’s reliance upon the stage- 
directions, even of plays clearly traceable to the Chamberlain’s 
or the King’s company, can only be hesitating, when it is re- 
membered that some of the extant versions of these plays may 
have been specially prepared for Court, or for the provinces, 
that even during the latter years of Shakespeare’s life the com- 
pany regularly performed at the Blackfriars as well as at the 
Globe, and that in its more unsettled early days it made its 
appearance, certainly or probably, upon the boards of Newing- 
ton Butts, the Rose, the Cross-Keys, the Theater, and the 

Certain misconceptions may at once be got rid of. Malone, 
by just such a critical misapplication of stage-directions not 
really referring to the public stage as is here deprecated, was 
led to assume the existence of a front curtain, which, however, 
he conceived, instead of being dropped like that now in use, 
to have opened in the middle and to have been drawn back- 


wards and forwards on an iron rod. Hardly any one now, with 
the exception of Mr. Sidney Lee, believes in this front curtain, 
which indeed, in view of the relation of the stage to the audi- 
torium, must, if it existed at all, have been accompanied by 
similar curtains running along the sides of the stage from front 
to back. But it did not exist. Such curtains as were used, were 
hung, roughly speaking, at the back rather than at the front of 
the stage and divided it from a room behind, which served as 
the tiring-house of the actors. We learn that at the Fortune 
the curtains were of worsted, and that it was the rude custom 
of the audience to fling tiles and pears against them before the 
beginning of the play, in order to allure the actors forth. Simi- 
larly it is clear that scenes, in the modern sense of cloths 
painted in perspective, fastened upon rollers, and shifting to 
indicate change of locality, although they were introduced from 
Italy at the beginning of the seventeenth century and were used 
in masques at court and in university plays, found no footing 
upon the public stage until D’Avenant opened his house in 
Lincoln’s Inn Fields after the Restoration. 

Some more positive notion of the structural character of the 
Globe may be gleaned from the builder’s contract for the For- 
tune, which has already been mentioned. In 1600 the Globe 
was the latest new thing in theatres, and in entering into his 
agreement for the Fortune with Peter Streete the carpenter, 
Henslowe was careful to specify that the Globe should be taken 
as the model, alike as regards the arrangement of the galleries 
and staircases, the contrivance and fashioning of the stage, and 
all other minor points not particularly set out. The only altera- 
tions of design asked for by Henslowe were that the scantlings 
or standard measurements of the timber should be rather 
stouter than those of the Globe, and that the main posts of the 
stage and auditorium should be shaped square and carved with 
figures of satyrs. It has been thought that the Globe was a 
round theatre, but as the Fortune was certainly square, and as 
Henslowe does not suggest any dissimilarity of shape, this must 
be held doubtful. If it was square, the ‘wooden O’ of Henry F 
must refer to some earlier theatre, probably the Curtain. In 
view of Henslowe’s allusions to the Globe, it is reasonable to 
accept the features and the dimensions of the Fortune, as set 
out in the specification, for a fair indication of the approximate 
features and the dimensions of its rival. If so, the Globe was 
eighty feet square without and fifty-five feet square within. 

104 the staoe op the globe 

The framework was composed of three tiers, stories, or galleries 
of seats. These were respectively twelve, eleven, and nine feet 
high, and each of the upper ones jutted forwards ten inches in 
front of that beneath. The galleries were reached by staircases, 
and parts of them were divided off by partitions, so as to afford 
four gentlemen’s rooms or boxes and a sufficient number of 
twopenny rooms. The stage was forty-three feet wide and pro- 
jected forwards to the middle of the floor-space or yard. It had 
a tiring-house, and if this occupied a depth of twelve and a half 
feet, which would have been equal to that of the galleries, it 
would have left a depth of twenty-seven and a half feet for the 
stage. It will be-seen that the stage was completely surrounded 
on three sides by the auditorium. Over the stage was a ‘ shadow 
or cover’. This, with the galleries and their staircases, was 
tiled and fitted with gutters to carry away rain-water backwards. 
The yard was evidently uncovered, and as the performances 
were in the afternoon, artificial lighting was thereby rendered 
unnecessary. The stage and the lowest story of the framework 
were paled in below, and the latter was also protected by iron 
pikes. The building was plastered outside; the rooms were 
ceiled; and the tiring-house was provided with glazed windows. 

These data, valuable as they are, are not exhaustive. They 
leave us in the dark as to the position of the curtains, and as to 
the arrangements for entrances and exits and for changes of 
locality. Conjecture on these points has generally helped itself 
by transferring to the Globe some or all of the features dis- 
closed in John de Witt’s drawing of the Swan. This drawing 
in many respects confirms the indications of the Fortune con- 
tract. It shows the three tiers of seats and the stage surrounded 
by these and projecting into the middle of the yard. The 
general outline of the auditorium is round or oval instead of 
rectangular; and, perhaps in consequence of this, the width of 
the stage is not, as in the Fortune, markedly greater than its 
depth. In fact, after allowing for perspective, the proportions 
seem to be reversed. There are no palings round the stage, and 
two solid trestles which support it are visible. There is a 
‘shadow or cover’, but this appears to be little more than a 
penthouse extending over the back of the stage and to be car- 
ried by two heavy round columns with square bases, planted 
in the floor of the stage about a third of the way from the back 
wall. I say ‘appears’, because, as will be seen, I have my 
doubts. The back wall itself is marked mimorum aedeSy and in 


it are shown two pairs of large folding doors which doubtless 
give upon the tiring-house. Above these runs an open balcony 
divided into six boxes, in which persons are represented sitting. 
This is approximately on the level of the second gallery. The 
‘shadow’ slopes down from the level of the third gallery, and 
above it towers a hut or cabin, with a door looking over the roof 
of the auditorium, at which stands a figure who seems to be 
blowing a trumpet. A flag with a swan upon it floats from the 
roof of the cabin. No curtain is apparent in any part of the 

The Fortune contract and the Swan drawing have been the 
starting-points for various efforts of imaginative reconstruc- 
tion. The dominant theory may be taken to be that which is 
summed up and illustrated with a conjectural ground-plan and 
elevation in Dr. Cecil Brodmeier’s Die Shakespeare-BUhne nach 
den alien Buhnenanweisungen (1904). It is also represented by 
the Harvard stage, as described and figured by Professor G. P. 
Baker in the German Shakespeare Society’s Jahrbuch for 1905. 
According to this theory, the stage was divided into an inner 
and an outer part by a ‘traverse’ or curtain, moving to right and 
left on a rod, which was fixed between two columns placed as 
they appear to be shown by De Witt. The outer stage was used 
for the large number of scenes which take place in a garden or 
street or some other, often not very clearly defined, out-of-doors 
locality, and make very little, if any, demand for furniture or 
properties. The inner stage, for which the ‘shadow’ served as 
a roof, was hung at the back with arras, and was used for the 
representation of interiors. It is held that the continuous suc- 
cession of scenes within each act of a play was rendered pos- 
sible by the alternating use of these two spaces, since the inner 
stage was approached by doors from the tiring-house, and could 
be set and re-set with suitable properties, whilst action was 
proceeding on the outer stage in front of the traverse. Some of 
these outer scenes, in consequence, are of the nature of what 
a later theatrical jargon calls ‘carpenters’ scenes’, serving 
rather to facilitate the process of alternation than notably to 
advance the plot. A stilt further variety of action was rendered 
possible by the gallery, which ran along the back wall of the 
inner stage above^he arras. This formed a third or upper stage, 
and on it passed such scenes or parts of scenes, on the walls of 
cities, in Juliet’s balcony, and the like, as are commonly indi- 
cated in stage-directions by the terms ‘above’ and ‘aloft’. The 


traverse between the columns was high enough to shut out the 
upper stage, as well as the inner stage, from view; but the 
former also had its own short traverse, by means of which it 
could, if desired, be put out of action when the inner stage was 
in use. 

The theory here expounded has had to face a good deal of 
criticism, particularly in some interesting articles on ‘Some 
Principles of Elizabethan Staging’, contributed by Mr. 
George F. Reynolds to Modern Philology for 1905. I cannot 
trace the controversy in detail. To me the theory appears, in 
the main, sound, both as regards the three divisions of the 
stage, and as regards the method of securing continuous action 
by the alternating use of these divisions. It is not necessary to 
assume that the management of the alternation was always per- 
fect, or that other, and sometimes more primitive, devices for 
overcoming the awkwardness of incongruously juxtaposed 
scenes were not occasionally resorted to. ‘You shal haue Asia 
of the one side, and Ajffrick of the other’, writes Sidney in 158 1, 
‘and so many other vnder-kingdoms, that the Player, when he 
commeth in, must euer begin with telling where he is: or els, 
the tale wil not be conceiued.’ In Sidney’s time the players 
helped themselves and their audiences by hanging up sign- 
boards over the entrances, in order to indicate the locality to 
which the speakers who used each entrance were supposed to 
belong; and it must not be taken for granted that, a quarter of 
a century later, the conservatism of the mimes had wholly learnt 
to dispense with this piece of naivete. My own criticism of the 
Fortune-Swan-Globe reconstruction must be limited to a single, 
but not, I think, an unimportant point. I do not see how the 
central traverse, between the inner and the outer stage, can 
possibly have come where Dr. Brodmeier and the Harvard 
architect put it. To this arrangement there are two principal 
objections. In the first place, how were entrances and exits 
effected when the traverse was closed and the outer stage alone 
in use.^ Dr. Brodmeier’s plan only permits of them through 
the traverse itself. There were occasions when this would have 
been grotesque; as, for example. Act ii. Scene iii, of Cymbeline. 
The inner stage represents Imogen’s bedchamber in which the 
trunk scene has just taken place. On the outer stage Cloten is 
serenading Imogen. Cymbeline enters and says: 

Attend you here the door of our stern daughter? 

Will she not forth? 


Obviously he cannot himself have just entered through that 

I suppose that at Harvard such exits and entrances were 
managed rouhd the edge of the stage beyond the columns, and 
through the side curtains of the inner stage. The grotesque- 
ness would be avoided by this plan, since only a few of the 
audience would see the use made of the side curtains. But in- 
deed the side curtains raise more difficulties than they solve; 
and this brings me to my second objection. The galleries in 
which the audience sat ran, as De Witt’s drawing shows, right 
round the house until they came into contact with the back 
wall of the stage. If the traverse was closed and the tiremen 
were arranging beds and other properties upon the inner stage, 
the sides of the inner stage must have been closed also, or all 
the preparations would have been visible. This was recognized 
at Harvard, and supplementary traverses were provided, run- 
ning back from the columns to the stage-wall. In Dr. Brod- 
meier’s plan the sides of the inner stage are permanently closed, 
in order that he may obtain side entrances to the inner stage. 
But it does not seem to have been considered how this would 
affect the line of vision of the spectators at the stage ends of the 
auditorium. The depth from the columns to the back wall 
seems to be taken as from a third to a half of the whole depth 
of the stage, say from ten to fourteen feet. A fair number of 
Dr. Brodmeier’s spectators would never see anything upon the 
inner or the upper stage, and would be seriously incommoded, 
when action was proceeding on the side of the outer stage far- 
thest from them. The corresponding spectators at Harvard 
would be rather better off, because the side traverses would be 
drawn to give them a view of the inner scenes. But they also 
would often have their view of the outer stage blocked ; and at 
the best surely these solid columns, with curtains clinging about 
them, must have proved very inconvenient obstacles to vision 
from various parts of the house, and must have provoked at 
least as much irritation and bad language as the largest matinie 
hat. My personal belief is that there were no columns and that 
therefore the traverse could not hang between them. I think 
of the Globe as a very simple affair, with a large open outer 
stage, forty-three feet wide by twenty-seven and a half deep, 
and a flat back wall hung with arras. Above is the balcony or 
upper stage with its short traverse; beneath the two doors to 
the extreme right and left, and between them another traverse, 


some thirty feet long, a parting in the middle of which fur- 
nishes the third door which some stage-directions imply. When 
this traverse is drawn, it discloses an inner stage contrived in 
the twelve and a half feet depth of the tiring-house and hung 
around with more arras. As this inner stage is what Mr. Rey- 
nolds calls an alcove, its traverse does not interfere with the Use 
of the two principal doors or of the upper stage. It is not so 
large as the inner stage of the reconstruction already discussed, 
but surely quite large enough to represent a lobby, a study, a 
bed-chamber, a shop, a friar’s cell, or the inside of a tomb. If 
a banqueting-hall or a court of justice was needed, it held the 
seats of state, and the rest of the action spread over the outer 
stage. Possibly it was raised two or three steps above the outer 
stage. It did not necessarily contain all the movable properties ; 
such things as tables for a feast could easily be carried on to the 
outer stage, and carried away naturally enough when done 
with. The fact that all the action would be visible is really, I 
think, a great argument in favour of the simpler Globe. 

And now, how did this notion of the forth-standing columns 
on the stage come about? The only possible evidence for them 
is that of the Swan drawing. I think it is just conceivable that 
De Witt did not regard them as supported on the stage at all, 
but as part of the structure of the back wall and set flush or 
nearly flush with the rest of this. If so, he drew them very 
badly. But then he drew the rest of his illustration very badly; 
and after all, he does not seem to have intended it as anything 
more than a rough note for the purpose of illustrating a certain 
analogy, which he fancied that he discovered between the 
structure of the Swan and that of the Roman theatrum, ‘ Cuius 
quidem formam’, he says, ‘quod Romani operis umbram videa- 
tur exprimere supra adpinxi.’ It may even be doubted whether 
he did not do his drawing from memory after he got back to 
his inn. The trumpeter, for instance, would not really have 
been sounding when the action had already begun. Moreover, 
it is only Arend van Buchell’s copy that we have, and not De 
Witt’s original. Altogether the drawing cannot be insisted 
upon very much, as regards the exact position of the columns. 
This is especially so, in view of the fact that there are other 
grounds for thinking it highly improbable that there were any 
columns supported by this particular stage. In addition to the 
builder’s contract for the Fortune in 1 600, the Dulwich papers 
contain another made by Henslowe in 1613 with the carpenter 


Gilbert Katherens for the building of the Hope. In this the 
model quoted in the specification is none other than the Swan. 
Katherens is to make the Hope ‘of suche large compasse, 
fforme, widenes, and height’ as is the Swan. The outside stair- 
cases are to be like those of the Swan, and the partitions be- 
tween the rooms are to be made as they are made at the Swan. 
The instructions as to the stage are noticeable. It is to be ‘a 
stage to be carryed or taken awaie, and to stande vppon tressels 
good substanciall and sufficient for the carryinge and bearinge 
of suche a stage’. Similarly, Katherens must ‘builde the 
Heavens all over the saide stage to be borne or carryed w^^out 
any postes or supporters to be fixed or sett vppon the saide 
stage’. The ‘heavens’ are, of course, the same as the ‘shadow 
or cover’ of the Fortune. The reason for these arrangements 
at the Hope was that the building was to serve for bull-baiting 
and bear-baiting as well as for plays, and that for these purposes 
a permanent stage would be in the way. I have no proof that 
the Swan was used for baiting, although it was certainly used 
for acrobats, fencers, and spectacular entertainments; and it is 
possible that the movable stage and the heavens supported from 
above may have been features of the Hope, which were not 
copied from the Swan. But on the whole I think that the pre- 
sumption is the other way, particularly as the Swan stage is 
not paled in and its trestles are conspicuous in De Witt’s draw- 
ing. Obviously, if the stage was movable, it could not support 
De Witt’s columns. The Hope also was to have ‘turned cul- 
lumes uppon and over the stage’, and I believe that in both 
theatres these columns formed part of the decoration of the 
stage-wall. If they did not stand forward on the stage at the 
Swan, the reason, sufficiently flimsy beforehand, for putting 
them in that position at the Globe disappears altogether. They 
were not needed for support of the heavens, as the analogy of 
the Hope shows; and if these, at the Globe, were supported 
from the stage at all, the most convenient method would have 
been by comparatively slender posts rising from its outermost 
corners. I am assuming that the heavens of the Globe and the 
Fortune, like that of the Hope, covered the whole stage, and 
were not a mere penthouse such as is shown in the Swan draw- 
ing. Here again I believe that De Witt misrepresents the Swan, 
and that the heavens projected farther and sloped down much 
less than he indicates. Were it otherwise, they would obstruct 
the view from part of the topmost gallery; and it really must be 



assumed that even an Elizabedian architect meant the specta- 
tors to see something. Dr. Brodmeiej-’s plan fails to guard 
against this obstruction. In the Harvard theatre the top gallery 
is well below the heavens, but these do not extend over more 
than the inner stage. 

Many minor questions in connexion with the structure of 
the Globe call for solution. Were stools allowed for spectators 
upon the stage, and if so where were they placed ? Where was 
the trap through which spirits arose and vanished? Was the 
balcony used solely as an upper stage, or did it also contain a 
music-room, and possibly the ‘lords’ rooms’ or private boxes? 
And if the music-room and the lords’ rooms were not there, 
where were they? What was the nature of the ‘top’ or ‘tower’ 
above the balcony, and how was the ‘creaking throne’ with its 
iieus ex machina brought down from the heavens to please the 
groundlings ? These are alluring themes, but within the limits 
of this paper it has seemed best to keep to fundamentals. 



Antiquity has left us little to go upon, as regards the origin 
and interpretation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, beyond the bare 
text of 1609. This was published by Thomas Thorpe, who 
prefixed his well-known dedication, ‘To the onlie begetter of 
these insving Sonnets, Mr. W. H.’. In 1598, Francis Meres, 
in his Palladis Tamia, had referred to Shakespeare’s ‘sugred 
Sonnets among his priuate friends’, and written of him as one 
of those ‘most passionate among us to bewaile and bemoane the 
perplexities of Loue’. Two of the extant sonnets (cxxxviii, 
cxLiv) had appeared in the miscellaneous collection of The 
Passionate Pil grime (1599), boldly ascribed to Shakespeare, as 
a whole, by William Jaggard. On 3 January 1600 Eleazar 
Edgar registered ‘a booke called Amours by J. D. with certen 
oy' sonnetes by W. S.’. It is not extant, and we cannot say 
with any assurance who J. D. and W. S. were. In about 1613- 
1 6, William Drummond of Hawthornden, jotting down some 
notes on authors who had dealt with the subject of love, wound 
them up with ‘ The last we have are Sir William Alexander and 
Shakespear, who have lately published their Works’. The 
‘lately’ might perhaps be held to point to the Sonnets, rather 
than to any earlier poems which had appeared under Shake- 
speare’s name, but we do not know what information Drum- 
mond in Scotland is likely to have had as to the circumstances 
of their publication. Finally John Benson, issuing a very dis- 
orderly collection of Shakespeare’s Poems in 1640, for which 
he certainly used the text of 1 609, although without any fidelity, 
wrote of the contents of his volume that they ‘in themselves 
appeare of the same purity, the Authour himselfe then living 
avouched’. This may or may not refer to the Sonnets in par- 
ticular, but it is at least possible that Benson knew of some 
statement by Shakespeare, which has not come down to us. 

I discuss, in a separate essay, the possible identity of the 
youth, to whom the first series of sonnets (i-cxxvi) was ad- 
dressed, with William, Lord Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pem- 
broke, and also the date-range of that series, which I take to 
have been from the autumn of 1 595 to that of 1 599, or possibly 
a little later. There I, of course, take the edition of 1 609 at its 
face value. But something must be said of the recurrent theory 



that the sonnets, as there printed, do not follow the order in 
which Shakespeare placed them, and that, by the exercise of 
critical ingenuity, an ‘original order’ can be recovered. The 
earlier attempts on these lines are, I think, negligible. At any 
rate, I will only deal here with the latest, which emerges from 
the careful research of Sir Denys Bray, and has received some 
measure of critical acceptance. Bray’s The Original Order of 
Shakespeare's Sonnets (1925) was followed by a paper on ‘The 
Art-Form of the Elizabethan Sonnet Sequence and Shake- 
speare’s Sonnets’ in the Shakespeare-Jahrbuch for 1927, and 
this again by Shakespeare' s Sonnet-Sequence (1938), which re- 
peats the arrangement of 1 925, with some minor modifications. 

One of the best editors of the Sonnets^ Dr. H. C. Beeching, 
has grouped the first series of them, as they appear in Thorpes 
text, under the following headings: 

‘The friefnd’s beauty deserves immortality in children and in verse’ 
(i— xix); ‘The poet’s love for his friend’ (xx— xxv); ‘Thoughts in absence’ 
(xxvi-xxxii)j ‘The friend’s wrong-doing, confession, and forgiveness’ 
(xxxiii-xxxv); ‘The poet’s guilt and the friend’s truth; written in ab- 
sence’ (xxxvi-xxxix); ‘The friend’s wrong to friendship’ (xl-xlii); 
‘Thoughts in absence’ (xcm-Lii); ‘The friend’s beauty and truth, which 
the poet will immortalize’ (liii-lv); ‘The friend absents himself: the 
poet submits’ (lvi-lviii); ‘Time and Beauty’ (lix, lx); ‘The friend still 
absent’ (lxi— lxv); ‘The good old times’ (lxvi-lxvui); ‘The friend’s 
beauty and the world’ (lxix-lxx); ‘The poet’s death’ (lxxi-lxxiv); ‘The 
poet a miser’ (lxxv); ‘The poet’s one theme’ (lxxvi); ‘With an album’ 
(lxxvii); ‘The poet has rivals, and one especially’ (lxxviii-lxxxvi); 
‘The poet appeals against the friend’s estrangement’ (lxxxvii— xci); ‘He 
dreads his unfaithfulness’ (xcii-xciii); ‘Beauty and Vice’ (xciv-xcvi); 
‘Absence in summer and spring’ (xcvii— xcix); ‘Apology for silence’ (c— 
cm); ‘The friend’s beauty and the poet’s love, which are the argument of 
his verse, remain unchanged’ (civ-cviii); ‘Apology for apparent unfaith- 
fulness during the long separation’ (civ— cxxv); ‘Envoy’ (cxxvi). 

With the second series, which Bray keeps practically distinct 
from the first, I shall not concern myself. It has been, not 
inappropriately, described by Dr. J. W. Mackail, as ‘a miscel- 
laneous and disorderly appendix’. 

Beeching’s headings may be open to criticism in detail, but 
at least they serve to give a general map of the ground covered 
by the sonnets. I think that they are sometimes too compre- 
hensive, and rather tend, by the wideness of their scope, to 
over-emphasize the element of grouping. There are many 
isolated sonnets, besides those for which they make allowance. 


which are best regarded as separate missives to, or perhaps 
only meditations on, the youthful friend. ‘Absence’ would, I 
think, be a normal condition of the relationship, although in 
some cases (xxvii-xxviii, xliv~xlv, xlviii, l-li) there is a defi- 
nite reference to travel, which may suggest composition by 
Shakespeare during professional journeys, when communica- 
tion, even by a post or other messenger, might be difficult. 

On the other hand, many contiguous sonnets were clearly 
written, if not at one time, at any rate under a common impulse, 
and fall naturally into pairs or triplets or even larger groups. 
They may be linked in various ways. Sometimes there is a 
definite grammatical connexion, with the help of a ‘Then’, a 
‘Thus’, a ‘But’, a ‘Since’, a ‘So’, an ‘Or’, through which 
argument flows on. Sometimes it is merely a matter of a con- 
tinuous theme, as in the seventeen sonnets (i-xvii), which 
exhort the youthful friend to marry and beget children, or in 
the nine (lxxviii-lxxxvi), which complain that he has found 
another poet. Often, however, the sense-linking of a group is 
emphasized by a definite stylistic device, which perhaps ap- 
pealed more to Elizabethan than it does to modern literary 
taste. I have in mind the constant repetition of significant words 
and also, although less notably, that of rhyme-sounds, in 
sonnets so related. Thus the word ‘beauty’ is to be found in 
practically all of the opening group of encouragement to wed- 
lock, and indeed ‘beauty’, ‘love’, and ‘Time’ run through the 
series as a whole. But in later groups the method, as applied 
to pairs or triplets of sonnets, presumably due to a single in- 
spiration, becomes more elaborate. Here some examples will 
be of advantage. I italicize the linking elements. 


Weary with toil^ I haste me to my bed. 

The dear repose for limbs with travel tired; 

But then begins a journey in my head. 

To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d: 

For then my thoughts — ixorn far where I abide — 

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee^ 

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide, 

Looking on darkness which the blind do 5ee\ 

Save that my soul’s imaginary sight 
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view. 

Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly nighty 
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new. 

1 14 


Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind. 

For thee and for myself no quiet find. 


How can I then return in happy plight^ 

That am debarr’d the benefit of rest? 

When day'^s oppression is not eas’d by nighty 
But day by night and night by day oppress’d. 

And each, though enemies to either’s reign. 

Do in consent shake hands to torture me^ 

The one by toil^ the other to complain 
How far I toily still farther off from thee, 

I tell the dayy to please him thou art hrighty 
And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven: 

So flatter I the swart-complexion’d night \ 

When sparkling stars twire not thou gild’st the even. 

But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer, 

And night doth nightly make grief’s strength seem stronger. 

Take these, again. 


When most I wink, then do mine eyes best seey 
For all the day they view things unrespected; 

But when I sleep, in dreams they look on theey 
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed. 

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright. 

How would thy shadow’s form form happy show 
To the clear day with thy much clearer light. 

When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so ! 

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made 
By looking on thee in the living dayy 
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade 
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay\ 

All days are nights to see till I see theey 

And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me, 


If the dull substance of my flesh were thoughty 
Injurious distance should not stop my way\ 

For then, despite of space, I would be brought, 

F rom limits far remote, where thou dost stay. 

No matter then although my foot did stand 
Upon the furthest earth remov’d from thee\ 

For nimble thought can jump both sea and land, 

As soon as think the place where he would he. 


But, ah! thought kills me that I am not thought^ 
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone^ 
But that, so much of earth and water wrought, 

I must attend time’s leisure with my moan\ 
Receiving nought by elements so slow 
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe, 


The other two, slight air and purging fire. 

Are both with thee^ wherever I abide; 

The first my thought^ the other my desire. 

These present absent with swift motion slide. 

For when these quicker elements are gone 
In tender embassy of love to thee^ 

My life, being made of four, with two alone 
Sinks down to death, oppress’d with melancholy\ 
Until life’s composition be recur’d 
By those sweet messengers return’d from thee^ 
Who even but now come back again, assur’d 
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me: 

This told, I joy; but then no longer glad, 

I send them back again, and straight grow sad. 

Or these: 


Being your slave^ what should I do but tend 
Upon the hours and times of your desire? 

I have no precious time at all to spend. 

Nor services to do, till you require. 

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour 
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you, 
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour 
When you have bid your servant once adieu; 

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought 
Where you may be, or your aflFairs suppose. 

But, like a sad slave^ stay and think of nought. 
Save, where you are, how happy you make those. 
So true a fool is love that in your will. 

Though you do anything, he thinks no ill. 


That god forbid that made me first your slave^ 

I should in thought control your times of pleasure. 
Or at your hand the account of hours to crave, 
Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure I 


O I let me suflFer, being at your beck. 

The imprison’d absence of your liberty; 

And patience, tame to sufferance, bide each check. 
Without accusing you of injury. 

Be where you list, your charter is so strong 
That you yourself may privilege your time^ 

To what you will; to you it doth belong 
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime. 

I am to wait, though waiting so be hell. 

Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well. 

Or these: 


Against my lo^e shall be, as I am now. 

With Timers injurious hand crush’d and o’erworn; 
When hours have drain’d his blood and fill’d his brow 
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn • 
Hath travell’d on to age^s steepy night \ 

And all those beauties whereof now he’s king 
Are vanishing or vanish’d out of sights 
Stealing avoay the treasure of his spring; 

For such a time do I now fortify 
Against confounding age^s cruel knife. 

That he shall never cut from memory 
My sweet lo%}e* s beauty^ though my lover'* s life: 

His beauty shall in these black lines be seen. 

And they shall live, and he in them still green. 


When I have seen by Timers fell hand defac’d 
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age*y 
When sometime lofty towers I see down-rax’d. 
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage; 

W'hen I have seen the hungry ocean gain 
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore. 

And the firm soil win of the watery main. 
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store; 
When I have seen such interchange of state. 

Or state itself confounded to decays 
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate — 

That Time will come and take my love avoay^ 

This thought is as a d<^th, which cannot choose 
But weep to have that which it fear-^ to Jose. 




Since brass^ nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea. 
But sad mortality o’ersways their power. 

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea. 

Whose action is no stronger than a flower? 

O ! how shall summer’s honey breath hold out 
Against the wrackful siege of battering days^ 

When rocks impregnable are not so stout. 

Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays}, 

O fearful meditation! where, alack. 

Shall Timers best jewel from Timers chest lie hid? 
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? 
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? 

0 1 none, unless this miracle have mighty 
That in black ink my love may still shine bright. 

Or these : 


How like a winter hath my absence been 
From theey the pleasure of the fleeting year! 

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen! 
What old December’s bareness every where ! 

And yet this time remov’d was summer'* s time; 

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase. 
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime. 

Like widowed wombs after their lords’ decease; 

Y et this abundant issue seem’d to me 
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit; 

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee^ 

And, thou away^ the very birds are mute; 

Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer. 

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter'* s near. 


F rom you I have been absent in the spring 
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim. 

Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing. 

That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him. 

Yet nor the lays of birdsy nor the sweet smell 
Of diflFerent flowers in odour and in hue. 

Could make me any summer's story telly 

Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew; 


Nor did I wonder at the Itlfs white^ 

Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose^ 

They were but sweety but figures of delight, 

Drawn after you, you pattern of all those. 

Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away^ 

As with your shadow I with these did play. 


The forward violet thus did I chide: 

Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy tweet that smells^ 

If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride 
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells 
In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dy’d. 

The lily I condemned for thy hand, 

And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair; 

The roses fearfully on thorns did stand. 

One blushing shame, another white despair; 

A third, nor red nor white^ had stol’n of both. 

And to his robbery had annex’d thy breath; 

But for his theft, in pride of all his growth 
A vengeful canker eat him up in death. 

More flowers I noted, yet I none could see 
But sweet or colour it had stol’n from thee, 

I think that these examples are fairly typical of the clearly 
sense-linked groups. Of course a rhyme-word may be part of 
a word-link, as well as of a rhyme-link. I note that in xxvii- 
XXVIII there are five word-links and two rhyme-links; that in 
XLiii-xLv there are six word-links and four rhyme-links, one 
emphasized by repetition; that in lvii-lviii there are six word- 
links and no rhyme-link; that in lxiii-lxv there are ten word- 
links and two rhyme-links, one imperfect; and that in xcvii- 
xcix there are twelve word-links and two rhyme-links, one im- 
perfect. In the friendship series, as a whole, I feel sure that the 
word-linking is the predominant factor. The words used to 
effect it are generally significant of the pervading emotional 
theme, whereas those in the rhyme-links are often not, except 
for the recurrent me’-thee^ which, in view of the general tenor of 
the series, was almost inevitable. I find no instance of a 
clearly sense-linked group which relies for its further linking 
upon rhyme alone. It should be added that some words used 
for links, such as decay-decays and mortal-mortality (lxiv-lxv) or 
absent-absence and smell-smells (xcvii— xcix) are cognate, rather 
than identical; and also that there is sometimes much word- 
play within a sonnet, which does not aim at linking. A good 


example is xliii, with its ‘eyes’ and ‘bright’ (each four times), 
‘sleep’ (twice), ‘dark’, ‘darkly’, and ‘shade’, ‘shadow’, 
‘shadow’s’, ‘shadows’. 

I turn to Sir Denys Bray. Much as I differ from his conclu- 
sions, a salute is due to the ingenuity and thoroughness with 
which he has worked them out. He starts, as any critic must, 
from the evidence, already considered, that the sense-linking 
of sonnet-groups is often accompanied either by word-linking 
or by rhyme-linking, or by both. And this, as he rightly points 
out, is also a feature of other contemporary sonnet-sequences, 
such as those left us by Samuel Daniel, Edmund Spenser, 
Michael Drayton, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Watson, and lesser 
men. Some of these also use more formal linking devices, of 
which Shakespeare did not, as a rule, avail himself. Thus the 
last line or half-line of one sonnet may be repeated, perhaps in 
a slightly altered form, at the beginning or the next, and in 
Daniel, Spenser, and Drayton we can trace a yet subtler pat- 
tern, in which a run of rhyme-sounds throughout successive 
sonnets, at one point of a sequence, is echoed by a repetition of 
the same run later on. And now Bray is struck by a noble 
thought. In these others the use of rhyme-linking and word- 
linking was sporadic. But is it possible that Shakespeare resolved 
to go one better than his fellows, and to compose a sequence in 
which the linking should for once run in an unbroken chain 
from start to finish of a continuous poem.? Obviously that is 
not so with the Sonnets, as they stand in the order of Thorpe’s 
text. But is it possible that, for some reason or other, that text 
is a perversion .? And can we, with the help of the clues which 
it affords, arrive at an ‘original order’, which does in fact 
represent Shakespeare’s own intention.? On these lines Bray 
sets to work, and does in fact arrive, by what he calls a ‘jig- 
saw’ process, through trial and error, at a sequence, in which 
the sonnets are attached to one another, both by a continuous 
succession of rhyme-links, and by an almost, although not 
quite, continuous succession of word-links. Perhaps one should 
rather say two sequences, since Bray still keeps apart the first 
and second series of sonnets, as we find them m Thorpe’s text, 
although he provides a single rhyme-link between them. I 
need not go into the complication due to the possibility, that 
after originally writing his sequence with ‘Thou’ as the pro- 
noun of address to his friend, Shakespeare later inserted other 
sonnets, in which he used ‘You’. This problem, if it is one, 


arises, even if we keep the order of Thorpe’s text. Bray thinks 
that the ‘You’ sonnets were afterthoughts, that Shakespeare, 
before he wrote them, had kept the original cycle lying by him 
long enough to pass unconsciously from one pronoun to the 
other, but that, when inserting them, he was careful to provide 
additional rhyme-links and word-links. My own impression is 
that, writing at intervals, he used the two pronouns indif- 
ferently. In any case, Dowden was wrong in supposing that to 
the Elizabethans ‘you’ was the pronoun of intimate affection 
and ‘thou’ that of respectful homage. A glance at the Oxford 
Dictionary will show that the converse was the case. 

Bray claims for his order that in it emerges, for the first time, 
that device of rhyme-echoing between one group of sonnets and 
another, which he found in other contemporary sequences. 
Thus in a group, which he calls ‘The Triumph of Love and 
Beauty over Age and Time’ (his 84-8, constructed from 
Thorpe’s c, lxiii, xix, lxviii, civ), he finds an exact repetition 
of words — ‘long’, ‘life-knife’, ‘pen-men’, ‘born’, ‘dead’ — 
which also occur, in the same order, in an earlier ‘ Forbodings of 
Death’ (his 42-6, similarly constructed from Thorpe’s lxxiii, 
Lxxiv, Lxxxi, Lxvi, Lxxi). There are other examples. And more 
generally he argues that in his order for the first time, the son- 
nets answer to the Elizabethan conception of a sequence as an 
elaborate art-whole, which has been obscured in that of Thorpe. 

> In the Quarto the rhymes lie in kaleidoscopic confusion. Throughout 
the rhyme-linked, sense-linked reconstruction they have settled down into 
a network of cyclical or rhythmical and typical Elizabethan pattern, only 
explicable as the product of design. 

A poet, he reminds us, like every other artist, is after all a 
craftsman also, and Thorpe’s order was wanting in ‘continuity 
or, unity — the vital principle of art in all its forms’. It may be 
so, but I am myself more inclined to look upon the unity of 
Shakespeare’s sonnets, written over three or more years, as an 
autobiographical one, following the ups and downs of an emo- 
tional relationship, than as a planned attempt to develop a pre- 
conceived dramatic design. It is fair to add that at one point 
Thorpe’s order seems to be open to the reproach of an incon- 
sistency, which disappears in that of Bray. In Sonnets xxxiii- 
xkxv Shakespeare reproves the youth for a wrong to friendship, 
which involved a ‘sensual fault’, and from xl-xlii it is clear 
that he had taken the poet’s mistress. This is recalled, perhaps, 
in cxx: ‘That you were once unkind befriends me now’. In 


Lxx, on the other hand, the youth is said to have been the mark 
for ‘slander’. 

For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love, 

And thou present’st a pure unstained prime. 

Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days. 

Either not assail’d, or victor being charg’d. 

Perhaps the Elizabethan conception of a ‘pure unstained 
prime’ was an easy-going one. Perhaps, on the other hand, 
Shakespeare, at one point of the intercourse with his friend, 
had wiped out the stain, in his charitable memory. In any case, 
Bray escapes the apparent inconsistency by putting lxx (his 64) 
earlier than xxxiii-xxxv (his 72, 73, 78). 

I do not know how far the ‘jig-saw’ was a difficult process. 
A normal sonnet may have seven rhyme-sounds and fourteen 
rhyme-words. In the first series, as a whole, there are 1,076 
rhyme-pairs. In the sequence, as a whole, the -ee sound occurs 
about seventy times, the -y sound, which may link either with 
the -ee sound or the -ie sound, about fifty times, the -<*/>, -art^ 
-ie, -ill, -0, -oan, -ue sounds, over twenty times apiece. There 
seems to be a good deal of room for permutations and combina- 
tions here. I do not attach much importance to Bray’s repeated 
statements that particular words used in links are unique or 
rare in ‘Shakespeare’s sonnet-vocabulary’, with the implication 
that they must have been deliberately chosen, in order to pro- 
vide links. Shakespeare had all the Elizabethan vocabulary 
there was to draw upon, and uses most of it in his plays. There 
are in fact only about thirty words in the sonnets, which can 
possibly be called recondite, and of these only half a dozen — 
antique, canker, character, distill' d, invocate, wrack — are used as 

Bray has, of course, a crucial question to face. If his recon- 
struction is sound, how did it come about that the sonnets 
appeared in a different order from their true one, when they 
were printed in Thorpe’s text And indeed how did they reach 
Thorpe’s hands at all ? Up to a point he has his answer ready, 
although he admits that it is ‘largely guess-work’. After the 
development of Shakespeare’s theme had led him into regions 
of intimacy that made publication impossible, he still wrote on. 

But in the end, perhaps soon after the last sonnet was penned, perhaps 
years later, he broke the chain and disarranged the flowing whole, either 
in artistic dissatisfaction with it, or, more probably, to ensure that what- 




ever the future had in store, the heart that he had unlocked in his own 
inner chamber should not lie exposed for daws to peck at. 

As to the daws, I am afraid that he has been disappointed. But 
why did he not destroy the sonnets outright? ‘Surely’, says 
Bray, ‘beccause they were too glorious stuff for the writer to 

And so: 

I for one find little difficulty in imagining that Shakespeare shrank from 
the publication of sonnets of such intimacy and shrank also from the 
destruction of such incomparable poetry, and simply put a disturbing 
hand into the flowing whole in which a storm-beaten chapter in his life 
lay revealed, in order to hide it from any prying or piratical Thorpe who 
came upon the Sonnets thereafter. 

He did not, however, merge the first and second series into one. 
Two problems, I think, arise on this theory. How is it that, 
even in Thorpe’s order, so much coherence is still to be found, 
that at least the outlines of the shifting relationship remain 
discernible? The shuffle must have been a very perfunctory 
one. Or were the sonnets, perhaps, sometimes written, not 
simply on separate sheets, but in pairs or triplets, which could 
not be divided? And again, how did the collection, even in 
its disorder, get out of Shakespeare’s hands at all ? Are we to 
fall back on Sonnet xlviii ? 

How careful was I when I took my way. 

Each trifle under truest bars to thrust. 

That to my use it might unused stay 

From han^ of felsehood, in sure wards of trust! 

But, ‘Thee have I not lock’d up in any chest’. Alternatively, 
did Thorpe get his copy, not from Shakespeare himself, but, 
as his dedication rather suggests, from the friend to whom the 
sonnets were written, and who may well not have been careful 
to preserve them in their proper order ? We cannot say. 

Ah! What a dusty answer gets the soul 
When hot for certainties in this our life ! 

But my fundamental quarrel with Sir Denys really rests, not 
so much on what he has done, as on what he has undone. In- 
tent upon his continuous chain of formal links, he has rent 
asunder many sense-links, sometimes even reinforced W gram- 
matical conjunctions, which are clearly apparent in Thorpe’s 
text. Examples may be found among the sonnets I have quoted 


above. Thus xxvii and xxviii, closely linked by ‘then’ and by 
the emphasis on day and night and toily as well as by the rhymes, 
become for him 38 and 41. So, too, the compact group on 
Time (lxiii-lxv), with its ‘Since’ and its long series of word- 
links, in lovey TimCy handy agCy beautyy awayy blacky brasSy mortaly 
decay y is split by Bray into his 85, 120, and 10. Consider again 
the continuous word-play on the flowers in xcviii and xcix, 
broken by his rearrangement of them as 82 and 89. But it will 
be well, since this is a crucial point, to add yet other examples. 
Take, then, xxx and xxxi (Bray’s 1 1 6 and 4) on the loss of dead 


When to the sessions of sweet silent thought 
I summon up remembrance of things past, 

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, 

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste; 
Then can I drown an eye^ unus’d to flow. 

For precious /nVWi hid in deatKs dateless night. 
And weep afresh lovers long since cancell’d woe. 
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight: 
Then can I grieve at gxievzncts foregone^ 

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er 
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan^ 

Which I new pay as if not paid before. 

But if the while I think on thee^ itdiX friend^ 

All losses are restor’d and sorrows end. 


Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts. 

Which I by lacking have supposed dead\ 

And there reigns Love^ and all Love's loving parts. 
And all xho^eTfriends which I thought buried. 
How many a holy and obsequious tear 
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye^ 

As interest of the dead^ which now appear 
But things remov’d that hidden in thee lie! 

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live. 
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone^ 

Who all their parts of me to thee did give. 

That due of many now is thine alone \ 

Their images I lov'd I view in thee^ 

And thou — ^all they — ^hast all the all of me. 


Or take lxvii and lxviii, formally linked, once more by 
‘Thus’, which are Bray’s 62 and 87. 


Ah ! wherefore with infection should he Itve^ 

And with his presence grace impiety, 

That sin by him advantage should achieve, 

, And lace itself with his society? 

Why should false painting imitate his cheek. 

And steal dead seeing of his living hue} 

Why should poor beauty indirectly seek 
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true ? 

Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is. 

Beggar’d of blood to blush through lively veins? 

For she hath no exchequer now but his. 

And, proud of many, lives upon his gains. 

O ! him she stores, to show what wealth she had 
In days long since, before these last so bad. 


Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn. 

When beauty liv^d and died as flowers do now. 

Before these bastard signs of fair were born. 

Or durst inhabit on a living brow; 

Before the golden tresses of the dead. 

The right of sepulchres, were shorn away. 

To live a second life on second head; 

Ere beaut fs dead fleece made another gay: 

In him those holy antique hours are seen. 

Without all ornament, itself and true. 

Making no summer of another’s green. 

Robbing no old to dress his beauty news 
And him as for a map doth Nature store. 

To show false Art what beauty was of yore. 

I could quote more examples, but these will suffice. Cer- 
tainly, some of the sonnets concerned might stand well enough, 
individually, where Bray has placed them. But if they were 
written separately, I do not see how they can possibly have 
come to cohere, so closely as they do, with others in Thorpe’s 
text, through the mere accident of a shuffle. And so I feel 
bound to reject, without hesitation, the whole of Bray’s in- 
genious theory. 



Writing on the Sonnets in my William Shakespeare (1930), 
I came to the conclusion that, while there can be no certainty 
as to the identification of the youth to whom those in the longer 
series (i-cxxvi) were addressed, the most plausible theory was 
that which finds him in William, Lord Herbert, the son and 
heir of Henry, Earl of Pembroke, by his wife Mary, the sister 
of Sir Philip and Sir Robert Sidney. This view was mainly 
based on letters from Rowland Whyte, the London agent of 
Sir Robert, to his master at Flushing, which are now preserved 
at Penshurst Place in Kent. Extracts from these were printed 
by Arthur Collins in his Letters and Memorials of State (1746). 
And from them it became apparent that in the autumn of 1 595 
an attempt was made to betroth Herbert, born on 8 April 1580, 
and therefore no more than a boy of fifteen, to Elizabeth, 
daughter of Sir George Carey by his wife Elizabeth Spencer, 
and granddaughter of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, then Lord 
Chamberlain of the Royal Household. The negotiation broke 
down, according to the letters printed by Collins, on financial 
grounds. But Collins did not give the full story, which was 
not revealed until Mr. C. L. Kingsford made further extracts 
from Whyte’s letters, which were printed in the second volume 
of the Report on The Penshurst MSS. issued by the Historical 
Manuscripts Commission in 1934. It how became apparent 
for the first time that one factor in the collapse of the parental 
scheme was the reluctance of young Herbert to become en- 
gaged to the young lady, who was about four years his senior. 
Possibly she was not herself of a very coming-on disposition, 
since there had already been overtures in May 1595 for her 
marriage to Thomas, son of Henry, Lord Berkeley, whom in 
fact she married on 19 February 1596, and the family chroni- 
cler of the Berkeleys writes of affection already existing 
between them in the previous autumn (J. Smyth, Lives of the 
Berkeleys., ii. 383, 394-5)* But it will be well to piece together 
the record of the Herbert-Carey affair from the extracts of 
Collins and Kingsford, neither of whom, taken alone, gives it 
quite in full. The ciphers were interpreted in the H.M.C. 
Report^ ii. 643. All the letters are of 1595 (Collins, i. 353, 
372; Penshurst, ii. 163, 173, 175, 177, 180, 182, 188, 194). 


126 V THE ‘youth* of THE SONNETS 

Sept, 55. My lady Carey and her daughter are gone to the Wight. 
Great preparacion was made for them at Wilton [Pembroke’s house], 
but they came not their, I know not the occasion. 

Oct. 8. My lord [of Pembroke] hymself, with my Lord Harbert [is] 
come vp to see the Queen, and (as I heare) to deale in the matter of a 
marriage with Sir George Careys daughter. 

Oct. /j. As for my lady Careis not going to Wilton, I , am informed that 
she expected at Court a dispatch in her sute for certain lands that shuld 
discend to her daughter, by being next of kinn unto her Majestie by the 
mothers syde; and lest the speach of marriage might overthrow it, ’twas 
thought best to put yt of till another tyme. My lord Harbart likewise 
being a suter for certain parkes and reversion, ’tis feared if the marriage 
were spoken of, that might bring hindrance unto yt. And therefore, here 
[London] is the place chosen fittest for the two young ones to have an 
enterview, where without suspicion they may ofire meete in secret, and 
to that end comes my lord of Pembroke up upon Monday next [Oct. 
20]. I heare that yt is a motion very pleasing to both sydes; this is all 
that I can as yet learn. 

Oct. 18. My lord of Pembroke’s coming is put off, on a speech of the 
Lord Treasurer [Burghley] that it were good he lay at Milford Haven 
to strengthen those parts. 

Oct. 25. My lord of Pembroke is here; so is my lord Harbert and both 
gonne to the Court. 

Oct. 2g. My lord of Pembroke and Lord Harbart are here; the Queen 
takes yt kindly that in this tyme of danger he came up to see her, and to 
offer hymself and fortune to doe her service. Their hath been an enter- 
view between the parties, and as I heare 9000 [Herbert] wilbe hardly 
brought to affect pp.yy [Mistress Carey]. 

Nov. 5. 2000 [Pembroke] cannot get them to move 1 500 [the Queen] 
for 9000 [Herbert] though he hath given them good cause. 

Nov. 22. The speech of marriage between 9000 [Herbert] and qq 
[Elizabeth Carey] is broken off, by his not liking. 

Dec. 5. Sir George Carey takes it very unkindly, that my Lord of Pem- 
broke broke of the Matdi intended between my Lord Herbert and his 
Daughter, and told the Queen it was becawse he wold not assure him 
looo^ a year, which comes to his Daughter, as next a kinne to Queen 
Ann Bullen. H^ hath now concluded a marriage between his Daughter 
and my Lord Berkleys Sonne and Heire. 

There can be no certainty, but clearly Herbert's ‘not liking* 
brings us much nearer to the situation indicated by Sonnets 
than any other clue, which has yet been suggested. Of 
course, there is no mention of Shakespeare in Whyte's letters. 
But he had made a reputation for himself, as something more 
than a mere player, by his Venus and Adonis (1593) and his 
Rape of Lucrece (i 594). And even as a player, he may well have 

THE ‘youth’ of the SONNETS ^ 127 

been zfersova grata to Sir George Carey, the son of Lord Huns- 
don, in whose company he was then a leading member, and to 
the Earl of Pembroke, to whose company he had probably 
belonged at an earlier date. If they wanted a plausible man to 
stimulate the imagination of the young Herbert, they could 
hardly have made a better choice. 

Elizabeth Carey was not the only bride thought of in vain 
for Herbert. In 1597 a match was suggested with Elizabeth 
Vere, daughter of Edward, Earl of Oxford and granddaughter 
of Lord Burghley. But this scheme also broke down. It is 
Rowland Whyte, again, who records its stages (Pens hurst, ii. 
294> 297, 302, 305). 

Oct. 8. I hear that 2000 [Pembroke] is resolved to accept the offer 
made by 900 [Burghley], which is to give 3000', and assure 6oo* a 
year land after his decease. 

Oct. 22. For the matter of 9000 [Herbert] it is upon a sudden quite 
dashed, and in the opinion of the wise by great fault in 2000 [Pem- 
broke], who makes the occasion of the breach to be a refusal of the por- 
tion offered by 900 [Burghley]. 2000 [Pembroke] will have 3000' in 
money and 500’ a year in possession, else will he not bargain. 1 3 [un- 
identified] grieves at it, for he foresees the harm will ensue. 

Nov. 5. The matters of 9000 [Herbert] are quite broken off, and he 
deceived you that said he was come to London. 

Dec. 20. 9000 [Herbert] matters yesternight upon a soddain are like to 
dye, for 9000 [error for 900, Burghley] thinkces that he is not well delt 
withall by 2000 [Pembroke], who refused his offers,' which are 3000* in 
money and 200' a yeare in possessioon, and now wrytes to 2000 [Pem- 
broke] that he will give no more till his death, and then 300' a year 
more, but 13 [unidentified] assures me yt will not be accepted. 

There is, of course, no suggestion of Herbert’s reluctance 
here. In 1598 there was talk of a marriage with Elizabeth, 
daughter of Sir Francis Gawdy and widow of Sir William 
Hatton (T. Tyler, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 50), and in 1599 Row- 
land Whyte was trying to bring about one with a niece of 
Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, mainly because Not- 
tingham, as Lord Admiral, could advance Sir Robert Sidney’s 
affairs. But on 16 August 1600 he had to admit that he did 
not ‘find any disposition in this gallant young lord to marry’. 
Ultimately, but not until 4 November 1604, Herbert did 
marry Mary, daughter of Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. 
In the interval, he had seduced Mary Fitton, one of the Queen’s 
Maids of Honour, had been imprisoned for it, and had himself 
become Earl of Pembroke at the death of his father on 1 9 Jan- 

128 THE ‘youth* of THE SONNETS 

uary i6oi. These things lie outside the ambit of the Sonnets. 
Mary Fitton, known from her portrait at Arbury to have been 
a fair beauty, cannot have been the black-eyed lady, of the 
second series of Sonnets, and indeed it is doubtful whether those 
are linked with the first series at all. One could wish, however, 
to have the letter described by William Cory as at Wilton in 
1865, but no longer traceable there in 1898 {fF.S. ii. 329). 

The house (Lady Herbert said) is full of interest: above us is Wolsey’s 
room; we have a letter, never printed, from Lady Pembroke to her son, 
telling him to bring James I from Salisbury to see Js You Like Its ‘we 
have the man Shakespeare with us’. She wanted to cajole the King in 
Raleigh’s behalf — he came. 

The apparent familiarity, with which Shakespeare seems to 
have been referred to, is noteworthy, and there is in fact a 
record of a payment to the King’s Men for a performance at 
Wilton on 2 December 1603. 

A start for the first series in 1595 makes a reasonable 
chronology possible. The image in Sonnet iii. 

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee 
Calls back the lovely April of her prime, 

has its contemporary parallel of 1594 in Lucrece ( 11 . 1758-9), 

Poor broken glass, I often did behold 

In thy sweet semblance my old age new born. 

We know from William Browne’s lines and elsewhere that 
Lady Pembroke was a beauty. So, too, those in xiv, 

But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive. 

And, constant stars, in them I read such art 
As truth and beauty shall together thrive, 

may be compared with Love's Labour's Lost (1595), ‘From 
Women’s eyes this doctrine I derive’ (iv. iii. 350). 

One must not, of course, lay too much stress on verbal 
parallels between the sonnets and the plays. Images, once in 
the mind, tend to recur, even after long intervals. The reading 
over of old work may perhaps sometimes refresh them. It is 
most often in the plays of 1597 to 1601 that echoes from or to 
the sonnets suggest themselves. But they run on even to the 
Winter's Tale of 1611. In Sonnet cii we have ‘As Philomel 
in summer’s front doth sing’ and in Winter's Tale (iv. iv. 2) 
‘no shepherdess, but Flora, Peering in April’s front’. Topical 
allusions in the sonnets are not very common. The ‘art made 
tongue-tied by authority’ of lxvi may refer to the restraint of 

THE ‘youth’ of the SONNETS 129 

playing in July 1597. The ‘pure unstained prime’ ascribed to 
the youth in lxx must of course, if he was Herbert, antedate 
the Mary Fitton affair. The most likely equation for the rival 
poet of Lxxviii-Lxxxvi is Samuel Daniel, who had been tutor 
to Herbert as a boy at Wilton, had dedicated to his mother his 
Delia (1593) and Cleopatra (1593), and was later to dedicate 
to Herbert himself his Defence of Rhyme (1603). An external 
reference to Shakespeare’s ‘sugred Sonnets among his priuate 
friends’ first comes to us in the Palladis Tamia (1598) of 
Francis Meres. Two of them, but from the second series of 
1 609, not the first, are in The Passionate Pilgrime of 1 599. The 
three years period of civ, if it starts from the autumn of 1595, 
runs through the winters of 1595-6, 1596-7, 1597-8, and the 
springs and Junes of 1596, 1597, and 1598, to the autumn of 
1598. The ‘mortal moon’ sonnet (cvii) 1 place in the next 
autumn, when the fear of a Spanish attempt had passed, and a 
prospect of peace seemed to be in sight. The ‘ thralled discon- 
tent’ of cxxiv may have been that caused by the imprisonment 
at York House of the popular Earl of Essex, which lasted from 
I October 1599 to 5 July 1600, and led to the printing of 
slanderous libels and to seditious prayers and speeches by the 
Puritan clergy, some of which are referred to in Rowland 
Whyte’s letters. On 3 January 1600 comes the entry in the 
Stationers' Register of ‘Amours by J. D. with certen oy** son- 
netes by W. S.’. I should like to find John Donne and William 
Shakespeare linked. But initials are ambiguous and, if the 
book was ever printed, no copy of it is known. I do not find 
any evidence in the Sonnets themselves of a later date than 1599. 
As for Thomas Thorpe in 1 609, I doubt whether he had any- 
thing before him but ‘To W. H.’ on a manuscript. Certainly, 
however, the Earl of Pembroke took no steps to suppress the 
publication, as he could easily have done, if he thought it worth 
while. The dedication of the First Folio plays to him and his 
brother in 1623 tells us that they had ‘prosequuted both them, 
and their Author liuing, with so much fauour’. Pembroke 
became responsible for the supervision of Court entertainments 
when he was appointed as Lord Chamberlain in December 
1615, but he had not much time to do favour in this capacity 
to Shakespeare before the poet’s death on 23 April 1616. 

1943 - 



The date and significance of Sonnet cvii have evoked much 
controversy, determined in part by rival identifications of the 
^ youth’ with the Earl of Southampton and with William, Lord 
Herbert. It will be well to give the text for easy reference. 

Not mine owne feares, nor the prophetick soule, 

Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come, 

Can yet the lease of my true loue controule, 

Supposde as forfeit to a confin’d doome. 

The mortall Moone hath her eclipse indur’de. 

And the sad Augurs mock their owne presage, 

Incertenties now crowne them-selues assur’de. 

And peace proclaimes Oliues of endlesse age. 

Now with the drops of this most balmie time. 

My loue lookes fresh, and death to me subscribes. 

Since spight of him He Hue in this poore rime, 

While he insults ore dull and speachlesse tribes. 

And thou in this shalt finde thy monument. 

When tyrants crests and tombs of brasse are spent. 

There is general agreement that the ‘mortall Moone’ stands 
for Queen Elizabeth, the Cynthia of Ralegh and after Ralegh 
Spenser, of whom Donne too wrote in his Progresse of the Soule 
of i6oi, although this was not printed until 1633, 

the great soule which here amongst us now 
Doth dwell, and moves that hand, and tongue, and brow, 
Which, as the Moone the sea, moves us. 

Clearly, too, the sonnet was in part inspired by some contem- 
porary peace or expectation of peace. The divergence of 
opinion is concerned with the nature of the ‘eclipse’, which 
the mortal moon ‘hath indur’de’. An eclipse is a transitory 
thing. The Oxford Dictionary defines the noun in its derived 
senses as ‘absence, cessation, or deprivation of light, temporary 
or permanent’ and again as ‘obscuration, obscurity; dimness; 
loss of brilliance or splendour’, but none of its examples cover 
death. The verb it similarly defines as ‘to cast a shadow upon, 
throw into the shade; to obscure, deprive of lustre’, and adds, 
as an obsolete sense, ‘to extinguish (life)’. And here it cites 
Shakespeare’s / Henry VI (iv. v. 52), 

Then here I take my leave of thee, fair son, 

Born to eclipse thy life this afternoon. 


THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET I3I 

It is spoken by Lord Talbot to his son John, who in fact dies 
in battle. This is Shakespeare’s only use, outside our sonnet, 
of ‘eclipse’ in the sense of death. There is no parallel in 
Antony and Cleopatra (iii. xiii. 153) where Antony says. 

Alack, our terrene moon 
Is now eclips’d; and it portends alone 
The fall of Antony! 

If the moon is Cleopatra, she is not deady and is in fact present, 
but Antony thinks she has failed him. There may be an echo 
of our sonnet in some lines ascribed to Sir John Davies, on the 
death of James I in 1625, 

By that Eclipse which darkned our Appollo 
Our sunne did sett, and yett noe night did follow. 

It is a very mixed metaphor. 

If, then, ‘eclipse’ in the sonnet may possibly mean death, 
what of ‘hath indur’de’? From the Oxford Dictionary^ again, 
we get definitions of ‘to endure’ as ‘to undergo, bear, sustain 
(continuous pain, opposition, hardship or annoyance) ; properly y 
to undergo without succumbing or giving way’, and ‘to suffer 
without resistance, submit to, tolerate; to contemplate with 
toleration’. No example of ‘enduring death’ is given. Shake- 
speare, however, who uses the word nearly a hundred times, 
furnishes two. One is in Lear (v. ii. 9), ‘Men must endure 
Their going hence, even as their coming hither’. The other, 
by implication at least, is in Cymbeline (v. v. 299), 

By thine own tongue thou art condemn’d, and must 
Endure our law. Thou’rt dead. 

There are others, later, in Milton. Eve says of Adam {Paradise 
Losty IX. 832), 

So dear I love him, that with him all deaths 
I could endure, without him live no life. 

Michael, again, says to Adam himself (P.L. xi. 364), 
so shalt thou lead 

Safest thy life, and best prepar’d endure 
Thy mortal- passage when it comes. 

It must be remembered that, in Christian thought, death is not 
final, but only a transition to eternity. Shakespeare is less theo- 
logical in his thought than Milton, but his ‘going hence’ is 
much like Milton’s ‘passage’, and it is possible, therefore, that 
the ‘hath indur’de’ of the sonnet might refer to the death of 

132 THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET 

Elizabeth. On the other hand, it might equally well refer to 
some temporary overshadowing of her life, by illness or other 
danger, and in view of the linking of the eclipse in the same 
sentence with the happy expectation of peace and with the 
mocking of the augural presage, which a death would have con- 
firmed, that seems to me to be on the whole the best interpreta- 
tion. It may, however, be argued that what the augurs presaged 
was not the death itself, but the political difficulties to which it 
might give rise. 

Theories as to the date of the sonnet have been somewhat 
biased by rival views as to the identity of the ‘youth’, on the 
one hand with Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, born 
on 6 October 1573, and William, Lord Herbert, later Earl of 
Pembroke, born on 8 April 1580. I need not discuss them 
here. In another paper I have attempted to put the case for 
Herbert. The sonnet itself has been variously ascribed to 1 596, 
1598, and 1603. The argument for 1596 was put most fully 
by Dr. G. B. Harrison in two articles on ‘ Shakespeare’s Topical 
Significances’, contributed to The Times Literary Supplement 
for 29 November 1928 and 13 November 1930, and in a sec- 
tion of ‘The Passing of an Eclipse’ in his Shakespeare at Work 
of 1933. He rather confused the issue by citing in support of 
it a letter by William Camden, preserved in Cotton Julius MS. 
c. iii, which contains a reference to an illness of Queen Eliza- 
beth ‘in this hir Clymactericall yeare’. The letter is only dated 
75 Martii in the MS., but other references in it show that it was 
clearly written during Elizabeth’s last illness in 1603. And 
this is confirmed by an entry in Camden’s Annales (ed. 1717), 
which records that the Queen died, ‘annum agens climacteri- 
cum, scilicet, septuagesimum’. Others, before Dr. Harrison, 
had fallen into the same error as to the date of the letter, but 
it is given correctly as of 1603 in Thomas Wright’s Queen 
Elizabeth and her Times (1838), ii. 494. In reply to a criticism 
by me in The Times Literary Supplement ior 25 January 1934, 
Dr. Harrison admitted his slip, but thought it immaterial to 
his main argument, which was that the ‘eclipse’ of the sonnet 
referred not to an illness of Elizabeth, but to an astrological 
threat of disaster to her during the year of her ‘ grand climac- 
teric’, upon which she entered on 7 September 1595. And in 
defence of this he cited a sermon by Anthony Rudde, Bishop 
of St. David’s, delivered in the Queen’s chapel on 9 April 1 596, 
and described in Thomas Fuller’s Church History (1655), and 


also in T. Park, Nugae Antiquae (1804), ii. 215, from a manu- 
script Brief e View 0/ the State of the Church of England^ written 
by Sir John Harington. of Kelston in 1608. The bishop dwelt 
on sacred and mystical numbers, and in particular on those of 
7 times 9 for the grand climacterical year, and was apparently 
indiscreet enough to suggest a prayer for the Queen, in which 
he included the words, 

0 Lord, I am now entered a good way into the climacterical year of 
mine age, which mine enemies wish and hope to be fatal unto me. 

The Queen opened her closet window and, instead of giving 
him thanks for his sermon, said plainly. 

He should have kept his arithmetick for himselfe; but I see the greatest 
clerks are not the wisest men. 

Certainly the pseudo-philosophical writers of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries were full of notions of climacterical or 
‘stayrie’ years of life, which were regarded as dangerous. The 
word comes from the Greek /cXt/LtaAcrifp, the ‘round of a ladder’. 
The theories took various forms, but stress was most often laid 
on every seventh year, sometimes also on every ninth or tenth. 
Thomas Wright, in ‘a Succinct Philosophical! Declaration of 
the Nature of Clymactericall Yeeres, occasioned by the Death 
of Queene Elizabeth’ (1604), appended. to a revised edition of 
his The Passions of the Minde in Generali (1601), does not use 
the term ‘grand climacteric’, but he says, • 

The most daungerous of all these passages or steps, are the forty nine, 
compounded vpon seuen times seauen: and sixty three standing vppon 
nine times seauen, and next to these seauenty, which containeth tenne 
times seauen. 

1 should agree that the grand climacteric might be written of 
as an eclipse, but I think that Harrison is less convincing in his 
speculation that the ‘incerten ties’ of the sonnet were caused by 
the strained relations between Elizabeth and Henri IV of 
France in January 1596, and the fall of Calais in April, and 
that they were ‘assur’de’ by the raid on Cadiz in June, and by 
a prospect of peace with its olives arising out of the new Triple 
Alliance between England, France, and the Netherlands in 
May, It is true that, when Henri entered Rouen to ratify the 
treaty on 6 October, he was met with a device in which an 
angel presented him with a sword of peace, and made a speech 
on the topic. Nevertheless, the whole object of the Triple 
Alliance was to continue the war with Spain. 

134 THE ‘mortal moon’ sonnet 

Harrison’s date was accepted by Mr. J. A. Fort in A Time 
Scheme for Shakespeare' s Sonnets (1929), and ‘The Order and 
Chronology of Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ (1933, Review of English 
Studies^ ix. 19-23). There is even less to commend that of 
1598 proposed by F. G. Fleay in his Biographical Chronicle of 
the English Drama (1891), ii. 221. He took the prospect of 
peace to have arisen from the treaty between France and Spain 
at Vervins on 2 May 1598. But this was entirely contrary to 
English interests. Elizabeth had done her best to avert it, and, 
although its terms left room for her adherence to it, she stood 
aloof, in spite of the advice of Lord Burghley. A more plausible 
date is that of 1603, the case for which has been put most 
recently by Dr. G. Mattingly (1933, P.M.L.A. xlviii. 705—2 1). 
This, of course, implies the acceptance of the eclipse as the 
death of the Queen. But certainly the augurs might well have 
presaged troubles to come at the change of dynasty. Spain was 
thought likely to intervene in support of the claims of her In- 
fanta against those of James of Scotland. In England itself 
there were fears of risings by or against the Catholics. But all 
passed without disturbance. James loved to be called Rex Paci- 
ficus. By July 1603 he had opened negotiations for peace with 
Spain, although they did not lead to an actual treaty until July 
1604. The symbolical olives recur in connexion with his 
coming. Sir John Harington welcomed Queen Anne on her 
arrival to join him in England, with an elegy, in which he wrote 
(McClure, Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harington^ 321), 
Like peacefull olive and like fruitfull vine, 

Yow banish dreadful war and barren dearth. 

So, too, later, Gervase Markham, in his Honour in His Perfec- 
tion^ (1624) tells of ‘the incomparable King James’, and adds, 

He enters not with an Olive branch in his hand, but with a whole 
Forrest of Olives round about him, for he brought not peace to this 
Kingdom alone, but almost to all the Christian Kingdomes of Europe. 

Perhaps one might add Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (iv. 
vi. 5), written about 1 607, for confirmation of the significance 
of the imagery in the poet’s mind. 

The time of universal peace is near. 

Prove this a prosperous day, the three-nook’d world 

Shall bear the olive freely. 

The chief difficulty about taking 1 603 as the date of Sonnet 
evil is that it seems very late for any sonnet in the first series. 

THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET I35 

The ‘youth’ is still a ‘sweet boy’ in cviii and a ‘lovely boy’ in 
cxxvi, with which the series closes, and although Shakespeare 
uses the term ‘boy’ very loosely in his plays, it does not seem 
quite appropriate to a belted earl, such as Southampton, who 
became 30 in 1603, or even to Pembroke, who then became 23. 

I suggested 1599 as a plausible date in The Tear's Work in 
English Studies for 1928 (ix. 148), but it will be well to state 
the case more in detail. The reign of Elizabeth is so full of 
incident, that historians of her later years, intent upon Irish 
complications and fascinated by the dramatic end of the pinch- 
beck Earl of Essex, have been inclined to pass rather lightly 
over other affairs which gave contemporary concern. There is, 
however, abundant material available in archives, public and 
private, notably in those of Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State 
and in effect chief minister of the Crown, which are preserved 
at Hatfield. The earlier part of the history of 1 599 is mostly to 
be gathered from the correspondence with Sir Henry Neville, 
the English ambassador at Paris, and from ‘advices’, which 
reached Cecil from travellers in Spain and similar sources and 
remained confidential. 

In 1598 a Spanish merchant flota had gone to the West 
Indies for treasure, and would be due back towards the end of 
1 599. In January of that year some galleons were sent to escort 
it. During the same month came news of a great concentration 
of ships and soldiers at Lisbon and Cadiz, and of a belief there 
that they were intended to take help to the rebellion of the 
Earl of Tyrone in Ireland, and possibly to attack the Channel 
Islands. England had no fleet at sea. The Dutch had, and in 
February they promised that it should lie on the coasts of Spain, 
and annoy hostile traffic. Early in March the Spanish concen- 
tration began to shift to Corunna and Ferrol at the north-west 
angle of the country, and its size became considerable. Pos- 
sibly its objective was now England itself, rather than Ireland. 
In April Don Martin de Padilla, the Adelantado of Castile, 
took charge. He wanted to obtain the use of the French har- 
bour of Brest, but this Henry IV, anxious to be on good terms 
with England as well as Spain, refused. Cecil was still relying 
on the Dutch fleet, which on 22 May passed Plymouth towards 
the west. This it would have to do, in order to reach the coast 
of Galicia, but in fact it made no attempt at hostile or even 
precautionary action against Spain itself, but sailed onwards|to 
the Spanish islands off the coast of Africa, where on 22 June 

136 THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET 

it took the Grand Canary and ravaged the settlers with 
extreme cruelty. This did not become known to Cecil until 
mid-July, and now he became extremely uneasy. The Dutch 
had failed him and England must take measures for her own 
protection against the Adelantado’s array. On i August he 
moved swiftly. Two letters, a little later, to Sir Henry Neville, 
and to his friend John Manners in Derbyshire, explain his earlier 
attitude and his reasons for changing it. To Neville he wrote, 

The reports from France, by the Governors of Deipe and of Calais, 
and from Monsieur de Sourdiac have bin such, as gave no small cause 
for us to apprehend some invasion from Spaine; considering that at that 
tyme both her Majestie’s fleet 'was in harbour, and most of her com- 
maunders in Ireland; but thanks be to God her Majesty’s navy is now 
ready to set to sea, and she hath both an army in the west, and another 
here, ready eyther for Kent or Essex, with which we do but attend their 
coming; not doubting but to pay them their accustomed wages, which is 
ruine and contempt. These things I do tell you gave us this alarm, being 
these reports (whereof I send you herein the abstract) that you may see 
with what a whirlwind they were brought hither; though for my part yt 
was ever to me a paradox, that the fleet was in Brest; and yet all circum- 
stances considered of my place and fortune, I did choose rather to run 
with the streame of providence, then of too much confidence upon myne 
own intelligences, which I must confess did assure me of preparations all 
the year, for defence against the State’s fleet; of which I did ever think 
the enemy would make some use, so soon as he should be secure of them 
upon his owne coasts; a matter wherein they dealt unworthely with the 
Queene; for yf they had not promised to stay on that coast, her Majestie 
would have armed, as the King of Spaine did; but they for gaine trans- 
ported themselves to the Canaries, which is a matter of no consequence, 
for. now he hath gathered indeed a head at the Groyne [Corunna], 
whether according to his reports he should bring his gallies, you must 
judge that his desseign must be for England; but for my part I am not 
advertized that the gallies are so neer as the Groyne. Though when I 
consider that those I use are but the sons of Adam, and that yt is not 
impossible, but that they might be corrupted or deceaved, I have given way 
to these preparations that are made, preferring therein the waycs of safety, 
before any matter of charge. (E. Sawyer, Memorials of Affairs of State^ 
i. 90.) 

To Manners he wrote, similarly, 

I have been constrayned to give more waye then I wold, because the 
world is ever apte to crye crucifige uppon me, as they have donne uppon 
my father before me, whensoever I doe diswade theise preperations, 
which bring soe great vexations to the people. This doc I wryte to you 
as a friend whoe have been longe acquaynted with the fortune of our 

THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET I37 

howse, and I must trewly add this further that, though the brutes that 
have been brought from sea are more violent then are possible to be trewe, 
yett we knowe this for certayne that they have prepared in Spayne 
myghtely to resist the fleete of the Lowe Contreyes, which having now 
left the coast and being gone for the Canaries, the Spaniards, that care not 
for that place in respect of other desecggs [? designs] to better purpose, 
wilbe apt enough to convert the forces prepared for the defensive, to 
offend us whome they presume to fynde without any shippes at sea and 
without any store of commaunders, things that will quicken the appetite 
of malitious enemyes. (H.M.C, Report on Belvoir Castle MSS.^ i. 356.) 

' By I August preparations against an invasion were in full 
swing. Ships were available at Chatham and Gravesend, and a 
fleet could be ready to go to sea in a fortnight. Lord Howard 
de Walden was appointed Admiral, with Sir Walter Ralegh 
as Vice-Admiral and Fulke Greville as Rear-Admiral. A com- 
mission ’was issued for the impressment of mariners. Some 
were sent from Plymouth. Sir Robert Sidney must bring others 
from Flushing. Behind the fleet an army would be concen- 
trated in a camp at Tilbury. Lord Cobham, the Warden of the 
Cinque Ports, would fortify Margate and the Downs. The 
Earl of Bath was in command in Devonshire and Sir William 
Russell in Hampshire. Special letters were issued by the Privy 
Council to noblemen and a few gentlemen, such as Sir Henry 
Lee, to furnish a bodyguard of horse, for the protection of the 
Queen’s person. It must be ready by 20 August. The City of 
London must provide for its own safety, and that of the Thames 
estuary. Sir Thomas Gerard would command. But the City 
had an old grudge against him, and the Earl of Cumberland 
was substituted. He had a device for making a fortified bridge 
over the river ix. Gravesend, which proved impracticable. So 
did another of sinking hulks in the channel. It would block 
traffic for years and drown the marshes. Finally it was decided 
to be content with placing ordnance on the banks at Blackwall 
and elsewhere, and leaving some small fighting craft on the 
river itself. A watch was kept upon Catholic recusants, who 
might cause mischief. The Archbishop of Canterbury pro- 
posed a special form of prayers. That used at the time of the 
Spanish Armada would, he thought, be suitable. And in about 
three weeks all was over. On 1 5 August the Adelantado sailed. 
He made no attempt at invasion, but went south to meet the 
Dutch. Storms drove him back, and by December he was in 
Lisbon with a weather-beaten fleet. He had left only a few light 

138 THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET 

galleys behind him in August. It was feared that they might 
attempt to come up the Thames, but this came to nothing. 
By 23 August the English fleet was at sea. The land forces, 
except in the west, were being discharged. The assembly of 
the Queen’s bodyguard, several times put off, was finally aban- 
doned. Cecil and England breathed freely. 

There is little evidence of widespread uneasiness in England 
during the first half of 1599. Cecil naturally kept his advices 
to himself and Neville, and if anything from his informants 
leaked out, it does not seem to have got very far. Possibly the 
burning of Penzance, Newlyn, and Mousehole during a Span- 
ish raid of 1595 had not been forgotten in the west. Certainly 
the officers in charge of Plymouth, Falmouth, and the Scilly 
Isles and those in Jersey and Guernsey were on the alert. But 
it was not until the sudden preparations of August that any 
general scare arose. John Chamberlain, writing from London 
to Dudley Carleton at Ostend about the academic Commence- 
ment at Cambridge, tells him. 

Perhaps verses and schollerlike exercises may be welcome in the middes of 
warres, the alarme wherof begins to ringe in our eares here at home as 
shrill as in your beseiged towne. For, upon what grounde or goode intelli- 
gence I know not, but we are all here in a hurle as though the ennemie 
were at our doores. {Letters, 56.) 

A little later he refers to the ‘ scambling provisions and prepara- 
tions for warre’, and adds. 

Upon Monday, toward evening, came newes (yet false) that the 
Spaniardcs were landed in the He of Wight, which bred such a feare 
and consternation in this towne as I wold litle have looked for, with such 
a crie of women, chaining of streets, and shutting of the gates, as though 
the ennemie had ben at Blackewall. I am sory and ashamed that this 
weakenes and nakednes of ours on all sides shold shew itself so apparently 
as to be carried far and neere, to our disgrace both with frends and foes. 
{Letters, 58-9.) 

Naturally, in such a state of things, wild rumours spread over 
the country. The Privy Council sent many letters to the Lord 
Mayor, ordering their suppression and the apprehension of 
their authors. A London citizen, writing to Cecil, furnishes 
examples of them. 

As that the Spaniard’s fleet is 150 sail of ships and 70 gallies; that they 
bring 30,000 soldiers with them, and shall have 20,000 from the Cardi- 
nal; that the King of Denmark sends to aid him 100 sail of ships; that 
the King of Scots is in arms with 40,000 men to invade England, and 

THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET I39 

the Spaniard comes to settle the King of Scots in this realm: which is so 
creditably bruited as a preacher, in his prayer before his sermon, prayed to 
be delivered from the mighty forces of the Spaniard, the Scots, and the 
Danes 5 that my Lord Scroope was slain, with 200 men more, by the 
Scots; that Sir William Bowes was turned out of Scotland by the King 
with great disdain; that the Adilantado has taken the sacrament to come 
to London Bridge, and brings his wife and two daughters with him. 
Upon Tuesday at night last, it went for certain the Spaniards were landed 
at Southampton, and that the Queen came at ten of the clock at night 
to St. James’s in all post; and upon Wednesday, it was said the Spanish 
army was broken, and no purpose of their coming hither: with 100 other 
strange and fearful rumours, as much amazing the people as the invasion 
were made. {Cal, Hatfield MSS, ix. 282.) 

But here is no mention of the most alarming and widespread 
rumour of all, which was that the Queen herself was either dead, 
or at least dangerously ill. She was now 65 and was beginning 
to feel her age and to resent any mention of it. As a matter of 
fact, she seems to have been quite well throughout 1599, but 
for a slight indisposition on 14 January, which caused her to 
put off an audience. On Twelfth Night she had been dancing 
with the Earl of Essex at court, to do honour to the Danish 
ambassador. She bade him tell his king ‘that she was not so 
infirm that she could not still dance and do other things that 
pertain to a vigorous active body’ and in a later audience added, 
‘Those who think I am an invalid egg him on as far as they 
can’. In July a progress was extended ‘by reason of an inter- 
cepted letter, wherein the giving over of long voyages was 
noted to be sign of age’. The letter happens to exist. It was 
written to Venice by a resident in London, who said that she 
rode with difficulty, but was ‘in health, though more than 
usually subject to fretting and melancholy’. In September the 
Scottish ambassador wrote to his king. 

At her majesty’s returning from Hampton Court, the day being passing 
foul, she would (as her custom is) go on horseback, although she is scarce 
able to sit upright, and my lord Hunsdon said, ‘ It was not meet for one 
of her Majesty’s years to ride in such a storm’. She answered, in great 
anger, ‘My years! Maids, to your horses quickly’; and so rode all the 
way, not vouchsafing any gracious countenance to him for two days. 
(F. Chamberlin, Private Character of Queen Elizabeth^ 72.) 

She was an indomitable old lady. Abroad, however, there were 
reports that she was dangerously ill. At Venice, in January, it 
was believed that she had a cancer, and could not live long. 
Perhaps some such story came to the ears of Henri IV, who was 

140 THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET 

favourably disposed to her, and made many inquiries as to her 
health, both through Neville and through his own ambassador 
in England, M. de Boissise. In July and August the Spaniards 
at Lisbon and Corunna were comiorting themselves with the 
assurance that she was even dead. Venice had heard the same. 
And it was clearly this rumour, perhaps deliberately circulated 
by the Catholic recusants, which caused most consternation in 
England itself. On 15 August one Richard Gibbons wrote 
from St. Omer in France to Fano in Italy. 

In England there is tumult and fear, and many fly into the southern 
parts. Some say that the Queen is dead, it is certain that there is great 
mourning at court, and messengers are sent to F ranee in haste. {Cal. State 
Papers, Domestic, 272/47.) 

On 1 1 August Rowland Whyte wrote to Sir Robert Sidney 
that the Queen was ‘very well and nothing dismaied at all these 
rumours’. By 1 5 August they had got as far as Cornwall. Here 
Richard Pearne of Peran Arwothal had been told by William 
Crowsyer of Gwennap that she was dead and that an army was 
in the field about London, where her picture was brought out, 
but she was not there in person. The warden of Pendennis 
Castle sent him to jail, and notified Cecil that the country was 
much troubled with rumour-spreaders and other idle persons. 
But it is from Buckinghamshire that most of the records come. 
On 13 August Jasper Oseley met at Hanslope one Humfrey 
Stafford of Westbury, who said he had heard credibly that 
there were no Spaniards, but that the mustering was for a worse 

‘What is that?’ said I, and Stafford answered, ‘The Queen is either 
dead or dangerously sick’, and in the end he did affirm to me that the 
Queen was dead. At which words I greatly grieved. {Cal. Hatfield MSS. 
ix. 428.) 

On 16 August Henry Wake of Sawey in Northants, wrote 
to Cecil of a similar report, secretly spread and whispered, and 
added that the beginners of such speeches were dwellers in 
Bucks, outside the limits of his jurisdiction. But he could give 
their names, if desired. The Queen was angry with Wake for 
not arresting his informant, and said that, if he could not pro- 
duce the author of the report, he was worthy of severe punish- 
ment. ‘And, to tell you truly’, wrote Sir John Stanhope, the 
Treasurer of her Chamber, she ‘was never quiet since’. Later 
it seems to have been alleged that this author was William 

THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET I4I 

Fortescue, the son of no less a person than Sir John Fortescue 
of Salden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wrote in some 
perturbation and rather obscurely. William was now gone to 
the sea. 

I presume he would not make any such slanderous report, having seen 
her Majesty walk in the garden and hunt in the park the day before his 
departure. But, under correction, Mr. Wake, who seems to me to be 
author, for that he layeth it in generality that some that came from me 
should give out such speech, would be sent for to make particular expres- 
sion of the party’s name whom he accuses, and so the matter might be 
tried out and severely punished in the author and spreader of the rumour. 
I have sent for my son to answer anything that may be to him objected, 
who if he cannot clear himself, I will utterly reject him. {Cal. Hatfield 
MSS. ix. 314.) 

Sir Henry Lee, of Quarrendon, travelling to court, sent to 
Cecil his servant Bennet Wilson, who had also heard a version 
of the rumour from Thomas Allyne at Winslow. He was ready 
to examine the parties, if Cecil so desired. To Dudley Carleton 
John Chamberlain wrote on 23 August, 

The vulgar sort cannot be perswaded but that there was some great 
misterie in the assembling of these forces, and because they cannot finde 
the reason of it make many wilde conjectures, and cast beyond the moonej 
as sometimes that the Quene was daungerously sicke, otherwhile that it 
was to shew to some that are absent [Essex, of course] that others can 
be followed as well as they, and that if occasion be, militarie services can 
be as well and redily ordered and directed as if they were present, with 
many other as vaine and frivolous imaginations as these. {Letters^ 62.) 

But the last word was with Elizabeth herself. On 29 August 
Whyte wrote to Sidney, 

Her Majesty is in very good health, and likes well of Nonsuch ayre. 
Long may she continue souveraine lady over this poore land. Here hath 
many rumors been bruted of her, which troubled her Majestic a litle, for 
she wold say, Mortua sed non sepulta. {H.M.C. Report on Penshurst 
MSS. ii. 385.) 

I cannot help comparing the casting beyond the moon of Cham- 
berlain’s letter with the lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet, 

The mortall Moone has her eclipse indur’de. 

And the sad Augurs mock their owne presage. 

Nor were the olives of peace lacking. It is curious that 
throughout this year of naval alarms negotiations for peace 
were constantly in progress. Philip II of Spain had died on 
13 September 1598. His son Philip III was a young and idle 

142 the ‘mortal moon’ sonnet 

man, devoted to his pleasures. It was believed that he would 
be pacific. The sovereignty of the Netherlands had been left 
to his sister Isabella, the Infanta, who was betrothed to the 
Archduke Albert of Austria. They would not be wealthy, and 
the charges of war with England and the Dutch were heavy. 
The marriage took place on 1 3 November, but the bridal pair 
came slowly through Italy, and did not arrive at their capital 
until the September of 1 599. As early, however, as November 
1598 negotiations for peace had been opened with Elizabeth 
by Cardinal Andreas, their Deputy in the Netherlands, who 
sent one Jerome Coomans, a counsellor of Antwerp, to London. 
No immediate result followed, but in the summer of 1599 
Coomans was again passing between England and Spain, and 
by the middle of August Philip had given the Archduke liberty 
to treat. The prospect of an agreement now became a matter 
of common knowledge in England. ‘ Here is a mutring of a 
peace’, wrote Whyte to Sir Robert Sidney, ‘God grant it may 
be profitable to our poor country.’ So too Chamberlain noted, 
‘ In the middest of all this hurle burle here is a sodain sound of 
peace’. But there were considerable difficulties to be sur- 
mounted. The goodwill of Henri IV was desirable. He offered 
Elizabeth advice, adding that ‘he knew her to be so wise, and 
so well assisted by wise Counsail, as she little needed his’. But 
Neville at least suspected his bona fides, believing that he 
desired to step into her place as protector of the Dutch. More 
important was the attitude of the Dutch themselves, compli- 
cated by the Queen’s unwillingness to surrender the cautionary 
towns which she held in their country, without some other 
security for the repayment of her loans. After long negotia- 
tions they refused to stand in, and in December Elizabeth 
decided to proceed alone. She would have liked a peace con- 
ference to be held in England, but to this the Archduke would 
not agree, and it was decided that it should take place on neutral 
ground at Boulogne during May 1600. Long before it met 
there was much scepticism as to whether it would lead to any- 
thing. ‘Whatsoever the reason is, methincks we are not so hot 
on this peace as we were’, wrote Chamberlain on 29 February. 
On I April Cecil thought the Archduke’s suggestions prepos- 
terous. He wanted the Queen to give up the cautionary towns, 
not to the Dutch, but to him, and to abandon all commercial 
intercourse with the States. It was feared in Scotland that he 
would ask to have the Infanta, rather than King James, ac- 

THE ‘mortal moon’ SONNET I43 

cepted ‘pro sole oriente’, as Elizabeth’s successor. Clearly 
there was no real foundation on which to build a peace. The 
delegates met, however, as arranged, and on 28 July broke up, 
nominally on a disagreement as to the historical claims of the 
English apd Spanish representatives for formal precedence. 

The most likely date for the ‘Mortal Moon’ sonnet is, I 
think, August 1599, when the prospect of olives began to 
dawn. It might, however, have been written at any time be- 
tween that and the end of February 1600, but hardly later, 
when the hope for peace must have been rapidly waning. 

1943 - 


The main records, on which this essay is based, may be found in the Historical 
Manuscripts Commission volumes on the Hatfield MSS. (ix, passim \ x. 6, lo, 
36, 93, 125, 145, 166, 167); on the Penshurst MSS. (ii, passim); on the Bel- 
voir MSS. (i. 355, 356); on the Savile-Foljambe MSS . (66-98); in the Calendar 
of Domestic State Papers (270/96, 97, 119; 271 /33, 35, 106, 113, 114, 140; 
272 /5, 7, 18, 47, 49, 94; 273 /i); in the Calendar of Venetian Papers, ix. 355, 
369; in E. Sawyer, Memorials of Affairs of State, i. passim; 186-226; 

in John Chamberlain’s Letters, 38, 56, 58, 61, 66, 67, 73, 75, 81; in P. P. 
Laffleur de Kermaingant, V Ambassade de Jean de Thumery, i. 250, 253, 257, 
258; ii. 45, 62; in E. Lodge, Illustrations of British History (ed. 2), ii. 524, 532; 
in A. Collins, Letters and Memorials of State, ii. 1 14, i r 5, 382 ; in V. von Klar- 
will, 2 Fugger Letters, 313, 315, 319; in N. E. McClure, Letters and Epigrams 
of Sir John Harington, 80; in F. Chamberlin, The Private Character of Queen 
Elizabeth, 72; in The Times (29. x. 1924). Vide also my Sir Henry Lee (1936), 
173 - 4 - 


(The following has been sent us by an esteemed contributor, and therefore we 
print it. But, as St. Augustine said about the legend of the Pelican, ‘This may 
be true, it may be false’. Edd. P.R.) 

Shakespeare’s knowledge of classics and philosophy has always 
puzzled his biographers. A few years at the Stratford Gram- 
mar School do not explain it, yet no one has drawn the obvious 
conclusion, that Shakespeare was a University man. Tradition 
records that he visited Oxford and was on friendly terms with 
the Davenants, who then kept what was afterwards the Crown 
Inn in the Corn-Market. What more likely than that he was 
up as an Undergraduate, and was led to that hostelry in search 
of liquid refreshment after a lecture by Ludovicus Viv^s on the 
Posterior Analytics .? It is easy, as this paper will prove, to show 
that his plays are filled with reminiscences of University life. 
But, if he was at Oxford at all, he must of course have been at 
Corpus. Where else could he have gone ? Was not Corpus the 
characteristic outcome of the Renaissance ? Did not the great 
Erasmus himself say that as Rhodes was famous for its Colos- 
sus, and Caria for its Mausoleum, even so should Corpus be 
among the chief ornaments of Britain .i* Th'ere is a plain allusion 
to this prophecy in the words of Cassius (who is Shakespeare), 
about Caesar (who perhaps signifies the College), ‘Why, man, 
he doth bestride the narrow world. Like a Colossus’.^ More- 
over, Corpus was a haunt of poets. Richard Edwards was here, 
and Nicholas Udall. Spenser was here, not indeed the author 
of the Faerie Queene, but his cousin, or at least a man of the 
sahie name as his cousin.- Surely the youthful Shakespeare, 
conscious already of his poetic genius, would have been here 
too! Internal evidence shows that he was here. Touchstone, 
in As Tou Like It, offers to ‘Stand to it, the pancakes were 
naught and the mustard was good’.® Now every one knows 
that the Corpus mustard is good, as indeed it should be, seeing 
that we pay 4J. a term for ‘cruets’, and no one who has been 
in Hall on Shrove-Tuesday will deny that ‘the pancakes were 

1 Julius Caesar, i. ii. 135. My friend, Prof. Piffelwitz, of Berlin, would read 
‘Like a Corpus’, but, though the ductus literarum favours the emendation, the 
line would be difficult to scan. 

* Vide The Spending of the Money of Roger Nowell. ® A.T.L. i. ii. 69. 



naught’. Clearly, then, Touchstone (that is of course Shake- 
speare) was a Corpus man. Then, again, there is frequent men- 
tion in the plays of Foxes and of Bees, of the Presidential Tor- 
toise, that original of Caliban,^ and of the late lamented Senior 
Fellow. He is the ‘Poor Tom’ of the Mad scenes in King 
Lear^'^ who was ‘a-cold’, and haunted by nightingales, who fed 
upon ‘rats and mice and such small deer’ and was the natural 
foe of the little dogs, ‘Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart’. It can 
only be by a curious lapse of memory that Edgar (probably 
Shakespeare) says, ‘Pur! the cat is gray\ We have also the 
familiar Corpus birds, the Owl and the Pelican, and it is note- 
worthy that Shakespeare uses the name ‘Pelicock’, a variant for 
‘Pelican’, which is, I believe, local and unique. In a scene of 
King Lear ^]viSt quoted, the quartos read correctly, ‘Pelicock 
sat on Pelicock-hiir,^ the hill being of course the mound on 
which the sun-dial in the quad once stood. The folio editors, 
not being Corpus men, missed the point and spoilt the sense by 
a reading of their own. Such alterations are common in the 
folio text. It is well known that all profanities were cut out, in 
obedience to an Act of James I, but it has not, I think, been 
observed before that, owing to that monarch’s notorious dis- 
like for tobacco, a number of allusions to the ‘nicotian herb’ 
have also been suppressed. Thus, in Julius Caesar we find 
‘the honey-heavy dew of slumber’. Originally the line must 
have run ‘the heavy honey-dew of slumber’. The folio reading 
is simple nonsense. The specific gravity of honey is consider- 
ably above that of H2O or water, a fact which Shakespeare 
must have known, if his editors did not. 

Life at Corpus in the sixteenth century seems to have been 
very like that of our own day. Familiar words are sprinkled 
over the poet’s lines; ‘commons’ and ‘commoners’, ‘messen- 
gers’ and ‘scouts’ and ‘battels’. ‘Battels’, by the way, the 
folio editors always mis-spell ‘battles’, though the phrase ‘A 
battel, when they charge on heaps’^ might have saved them 
from that error. From Macbeth we learn that, then too, men 
knocked the porter up at midnight, and that the Owlet Club 
held its weekly meetings, or, as Shakespeare puts it, ‘the 

1 Tempest, i. ii. 316, where Caliban is addressed by Prospero-Shakespeare, 
‘Come, thou tortoise! when?’ Mr. Ignatius Donnelly believes that Caliban was 
Shakespeare himself. Perhaps he was his scout. 

2 Lear, iii. iv. 59, 144, 177; in. vi. 31, 47, 66. ^ i^^r, m. iv. 78. 

^ Julius Caesar, ii. i. 230. ^ TV. Cr,, iii. ii. 29. 


obscure bird Clamoured the livelong night This last fact 
may startle some readers who think that they remember the 
birth of the Owlet Club; but they should reflect that Shake- 
speare knew many things that they didn’t know that he knew. 
Personally I had always regarded the Primrose League as a 
modern institution, until I found him speaking of ‘ the primrose 
way to the everlasting bonfire’.- 

Shakespeare was never a bookworm. He alludes to the 
Stratford School with some distaste as a place where ‘ none will 
sweat but for promotion’,® and in Oxford he read but little. 
When he speaks of himself as one that ‘hath been tutored in 
the Rudiments’,'* we gather that he had to put on a coach for 
an examination that in our day has not been held to require it. 
In his last year he received from a friend the warning, ‘ Thou 
art so near the gulph’,® and there is reason to believe that, in 
the end, he was actually ploughed. That, at least, is the natural 
inference from the words of Titinius (perhaps an examiner) to 
Cassius (Shakespeare), ‘Alas, thou hast misconstrued every- 
thing’.* Shakespeare is Cassius and Prospero and Edgar and 
Touchstone, but still more is he Polonius. Polonius is a Uni- 
versity man, and has enacted Julius Caesar for the Oxford 
University Dramatic Society.’ He can give good counsel to 
Laertes, as one who has been there. Above all, he advises him 
not to give fresher-breakfasts; ‘do not dull thy palm with enter- 
tainment Of each new-fledged unhatched comrade’. Hamlet 
addresses him somewhat rudely as ‘Buz, Buz’.® Probably this 
was the usual nickname of Corpus men, owing to the fact that 
at Oldham’s suggestion they took the place of a company of 
‘buzzing’ or ‘bussing’ monks.*® Almost in his last moments, 
mindful of the days when he sat as senior scholar in the Corpus 
Hall, Polonius makes the apparently irrelevant remark, ‘I’ll 
sconce me’.** Surely he can be none other than Shakespeare 

Shakespeare tells us less than could be wished about his 
college contemporaries. It is surprising to learn that Oldham 
once held the office of President of Corpus, but in Richard III, 
the Messenger, who must have known, speaks distinctly of 
‘the haughty Pre, late Bishop of Exeter’.*® Here the folio 

1 Mad., 11. iii. i, 64. ® Ibid., ii. iii. 21. ® J.T.L. ii. iii. 60. 

* Ibid., V. iv. 31. Henry ^ Julius Caesar, v. iii. 

’ Hamlet, iii. ii. 108. * Ibid., i. iii. 64. * Ibid., n. ii. 412. 

*® Holinshed, Chronicles. Hamlet, in. iv. 4. *® Richard III, iv. iv. 502. 


editors have as usual perverted the 'meaning, this time by 
omitting a comma. Fellows of the college are often mentioned, 
but never by name. I doubt if Shakespeare had a high opinion 
of them, as a body. ‘Nature’, he says, ‘hath framed strange 
Fellows in her time’.^ There were among them ‘learned and 
authentic Fellows’® and ‘a Fellow of infinite jest’ but there 
were also ‘a periwig-pated Fellow’,* ‘a very scurvy Fellow’,® 
‘a snipt-taffeta Fellow’,* and an ‘old fat Fellow’.® Probably 
this is ‘the Fellow with the great belly’, of 2 Henry IV^ the 
prototype of Falstaff, and possibly also the ‘Fellow in the cel- 
larage’ of Hamlet? No doubt he was quite a character in his 


1 Merchant of Venice, i. i. 51. ® All’s Well, ii. iii. 14. 

* Hamlet, v. i. 203. * Ibid., iii. ii. 10. ® M.for M., v. i. 136. 

* All’s Well, IV. V. I. ’ Merry Wives, iv. iv. 15. 

* 2 Henry IV, i. ii. 165. * Hamlet, i. v. 1 51.